Friday, August 27, 2010

Keeping the Feast

I enjoyed Paula Butturini's first-person account of living with a loved one who has severe depression as her portrayal of an excruciatingly painful disease is written with humor, grace and a remarkably keen sense of empathy and understanding. After sustaining a near-fatal gunshot wound while covering the collapse of Romania's communist regime in the 80's, her husband, New York Times correspondent John Tagliabue slides into a severe depression reminiscent of the author's mother's descent years before which resulted in her suicide. This inspiring memoir of love, family, food, friends and healing set against the background of their adopted home in and around Rome, Italy is recommended for all. -DB

Friday, August 20, 2010

Megan recommends: How I Became a Famous Novelist

Why should you read this book? Because it is just really, really funny. Post-college angst and poverty, literary pretensions, evil ex-girlfriends -- this book has it all. Pete Tarslaw, our hero, is a millennial slacker who wants to make a lot of money without working too hard. He decides to write the "best-sellingest best seller of all time." Follow him from Boston to New York to a writer's workshop in Montana to Hollywood and laugh all along the way.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Jonathan Recommends: Pastel Volume 1

On the surface Pastel seems little more than fan service to amuse hormone-driven teenagers. The cover even shows a scantily clad girl wearing a swimsuit. But, as the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” teaches us we have to dig beneath the surface to find the gold that is Pastel Vol. 1 by Toshihiko Kobayashi.

The central character is everyman teenager Mugi Tadano who is recovering from a severe heartbreak when his girlfriend moves away. To get over the loss he gets a summer job at a tropical snack bar and gets set up with cutie Yuu Tsukisaki. The hilarity begins when he accidentally walks in on Yuu in the bath and becomes shamefaced over his error. When he moves back home for school a surprise awaits him and history repeats itself. The conflict of teenage boy meets teenage girl combined with an almost parental or brotherly compassion makes this a worthy read. Koyabashi does an excellent job of capturing teenage emotions in this whirlwind using Mugi as the poster child. Through slapstick comedy Pastel portrays the transformation of innocent youthfulness of characters who struggle with growing up and maturing into adulthood.

The artwork beautifully portrays places that most of us will never visit. The beachside summer locale for Mugi’s job makes the reader hear the seagulls and feel the sun beat down on their faces. The urban setting of Mugi’s home and school brings the hustle and bustle to life. We can picture this happening here in the U.S. with some slight adjustments. Even the internal artwork of buildings and Mugi’s home is incredible for the insight into Japanese family life.

This series is geared towards a Grade 10+ (at minimum) male audience. It features typical, but highly suggestive, manga artwork. Kobayashi does a superb job balancing the suggestive artwork and its comedic effect. At the end of the day, Pastel is a heartwarming story of a confused adolescent combating his hormones and his compassion. The universality of that ensures a solid foundation of common ground between reader and the characters.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book: Life Lessons from Notable People from All Walks of Life, edited by Anita Silvey.
Settle into your favorite armchair and relish turning the pages of this ingeniously designed treasury of favorite children's books and the readers who loved them. Anita Silvey of Simmons College and Westwood, Massachusetts has gathered the beloved books of 110 society leaders from the sciences, politics, sports, and the arts. Each entry includes an illustrated page from the book, commentary on the book, and the reader's description of how it impacted their lives. The books are grouped in the categories of inspiration, understanding, principles and precepts, vocation, motivation, and storytelling. Find out what Peter Lynch learned from the Hardy Boys and how Beatrix Potter taught Ken Follett to write. Be charmed by David McCullough's debt to Robert Lawson's Ben and Me and be inspired by the wisdom Anne Tyler found in The Little House by Virgina Lee Burton. Reading this book will cause you to recall with pleasure the books that deeply and lovingly spoke to your imagination and to your heart. PM

The Laundry is Watching You

The Atrocity Archives
by Charles Stross

Bob Howard is a computer hacker desk jockey, who is looking to move up to field work while avoiding bureaucratic hassles. He works for "The Laundry" an X-files like government organization charged with stopping any occult summonings. It turns out that some higher mathematics can lead to the ability to summon vile maleficent things from beyond.

Bob's mission is to stop people from using this arcane mathematical knowledge, whether accidentally or deliberately. It's A fun cross between the office and a spy novel and Lovecraftian horror. The overall tone is witty and comedic not horrific.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mike (and the Pulitzer committee) suggests: Tinkers

Tinkers by Paul Harding

Nature is an unknown factor in our lives; while we have tried to tame it, to understand it wholly, nature always comes back with a destructive violence or a majestic beauty, an unexplained phenomenon that halts humanity's hubris. The same can be said of human nature, that we'll never know the effects our lives--sometimes violent, sometimes nurturing--will have on others. With his Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Tinkers" Paul Harding examines the lives of three successive generations of men, and seeks to describe the impact of the unknowable human nature on their families. Interweaving the narratives of their lives--inner and outer--Harding effortlessly moves between the ages and the minds with an exactness that left me stunned. Encountering the moments in our lives when we feel a profound sense of connectedness to the greater mysteries is difficult enough, but tackling these ethereal experiences and putting them to words is a remarkable feat. My favorite moment came at the end of the novel (no spoilers here, I promise) when he wrote "We sensed, finally, the foolishness of attributing the unknown to secret cabals, to conspiracies. Everything was almost always obscure. Understanding shown when it did, for no discernable reason, and we were content." Amen to that.

Jonathan Recommends: Cyclist bikelist: the book for every rider

Cyclist BikeList by Laura Robinson

Cyclist Bikelist has great illustrations with useful accompanying text. This book is geared to children in middle school and older but may be accessible for those in upper elementary. Robinson's book is a nice survey of cycling and repairs but sadly lacks any real depth. Despite that it could be the right amount of fuel to ignite a child's interest to learn more on the topic.

You can find similar cyling books for children in the Minuteman Library Network catalog. Here's a few others to sink your teeth into:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Etta James' "Time After Time" is a favorite of Debra's

Although rhythm and blues legend Etta James is probably best known for her hit single 'At Last', this album showcases her incomparable talent singing such classics as Don't Go to Strangers, Love is Here to Stay, The Nearness of You, Imagination and Night & Day. Although these songs have been recorded hundreds of times before, James is a master. Her own life experiences and worldly wisdom have no doubt influenced her musical interpretations. The backup musicians are incredible performers on their own. From Ronnie Buttacavoli on trumpet to Cedar Walton on piano and Herman Riley/Eddie Harris on tenor sax, you will be treated to the best. Every track is an amazing listening experience. If you are like me, you may wear out the disc from overuse. Remember to sing along and enjoy.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Megan recommends: Insignificant Others

Insignificant Others by Stephen McCauley

Richard Rossi works in HR at a high tech firm in Boston. He has a long-time partner and also someone on the side and seems reasonably content with this. Richard's world changes when he discovers that his partner Conrad also has been having an affair with someone else. Obviously, personal difficulties arise. A great cast of "friends, frenemies, colleagues, and personal trainers" describes one reviewer. Another funny and insightful social satire by Stephen McCauley.