Items tagged with Book news

American stories

Posted by on Friday, Aug 6, 2010 - 10:49 AM

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers takes a personal story of one man and uses it to highlight the sad history of Hurricane Katrina. Abdulrahman Zeitoun is an immigrant from Syria who owned a successful house-painting business in New Orleans. His American-born wife Kathy had converted from Christianity to Islam before they met. They lived a typical All-American life running their business and raising four children. Then…Katrina hit. Have your read Zeitoun? Did it give you a new perspective on those awful events of 2005? From Hong Kong to Brooklyn, Jean Kwok draws on her own experience in her novel Girl in Translation. Excellent student by day and sweatshop worker by night, the teen immigrant must constantly navigate between two worlds. Ethiopian Dinaw Mengetsu sets his immigration story, The Beautiful Things that Heavens Bears in a poor African-American section of Washington DC. Dreams contrast with reality as economic struggles ensue and bi-racial friendships are threatened. Mengetsu’s new novel How To Read the Air reaches back a generation to his parents’ road trip around the US, when they immigrated. Mengetsu is skilled at depicting harsh realities in an almost gentle but engaging narrative. Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love is a collection of short stories by Lara Vapnyar. Food and love intersect for the Russian immigrants depicted in all their pleasures and frustrations. Who can forget the books of Amy Tan? Her first, Joy Luck Club is a classic look at a Chinese-American family living in San Francisco. Do you have a favorite book about immigration?

What next??

Posted by on Saturday, Jul 24, 2010 - 12:14 PM

Have you heard enough about Stieg and his girl? Wondering what else to read?

How about One Day by David Nicholls? For twenty years on July 15 two people re-connect in this novel on its way to the big screen for a sure-hit romantic film.

Scott Turow fan? The lawyers of Presumed Innocent return for another psychological match in Innocent, his latest. (For a vivid picture of Law school life, read One L, Turow’s autobiographical first book.)

Tom Rachman’s debut, The Imperfectionists presents character sketches in short chapters –each featuring someone connected to a slowly failing international newspaper.

Thriller favorite Daniel Silva returns with The Rembrandt Affair; this time the intrigue centers on the world of art restoration. Silva is a former CNN producer married to an NBC journalist and is a media/political insider.

Like an Escher drawing, Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross is a complicated look at marriage. A woman’s death leads to an investigation of her husband. Their marriage as well as those of the investigating policemen present variations of love/hate and murder/marriage. A challenging read – unsavory- with multiple endings.

David Mitchell has emerged with his new (and most conventional for him) novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet. Mitchell is known for his experimental novels, each highly praised by critics, but not achieving popularity. This one is an epic historical set in 1799 Nagasaki Harbor where the very few Westerners are not welcome. The life of the young Dutch West Indies merchant is changed forever as he navigates his need for profit and his attraction to pleasure with his conscience.

Two books lingering on the “library bestsellers” list are the popular book club selections Little Bee by Chris Cleave and Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Both have been added to Speaking of Books, the Library multiple copies collection from which book clubs may borrow many copies at a time for their members. Cleave has written a haunting story about the friendship between an illegal Nigerian immigrant and a recent widow in suburban London. Verghese tells of twins born to an Indian mother and a British father who is a surgeon. Loving the same woman, the twins separate but come together again to undergo a test of family love and trust betrayed.

An adventure book to enjoy with your tween is Red Pyramid, the latest by Rick Riordan. A British Museum research project unleashes the Egyptian god Set and provokes a dangerous journey across the globe. This is ancient Egyptian mythology brought to life in the modern world. Master of mystery, mythology and adventure, Riordan is best know for his book The Lightning Thief.

Book news

Just an Average Family

Posted by SusanM on Wednesday, Jul 14, 2010 - 2:17 PM

every last one.jpgShe’s back and better than ever. That’s how I feel about Anna Quindlen and her most recent novel, Every Last One. I’ve been a fan of Ms. Quindlen since she wrote her “Life in the 30’s” column in the NY Times back in the 80’s. She later won the Pulitzer Prize for her “Public and Private” column which appeared on the Op-Ed page of the same newspaper. When she retired to stay home and be a novelist, I was a little disappointed, because I really looked forward to reading her commentaries. Her experiences were my experiences – she spoke to me. Those columns became her first books, Thinking out Loud and Living out Loud, and she followed them with her first novel, Object Lessons. This coming of age story about a young girl in a large Irish –American family did not disappoint me and I began to look forward to her next novel.

One True Thing is the novel that is probably the best known of all her books. Made into a movie starring Meryl Streep, it’s a heartbreaking story of a mother and daughter, brought together through love and loss. Ms. Quindlen followed it with Black and Blue, a story of domestic abuse. She’s published several other non-fiction books and two additional novels, but I think Every Last One is one of her best works.

Mary Beth Latham is a typical suburban wife and mother of three teenagers, and for the most part, is living an ordinary, average life. Ms. Quindlen spends the first part of her book developing the characters whose lives we soon become involved in; the kids, the relatives and friends that are part of the Latham family’s world. These characters were so real to me that I felt that it could have been my life, my family. A senseless act of violence takes place and Mary Beth’s life is changed forever. Ms. Quindlen’s beautiful writing takes us through the life that Mary Beth must now make for herself and her family. I don’t want to give away the plot line, but Anna Quindlen has captured the themes of love and loss in the most touching and heartbreaking way. Be prepared – you may be shedding a few tears when you read this one.

If you’ve never read one of Anna Quindlen’s books, I encourage you to make room on your book club list for one of her novels. Every Last One is the perfect way to start. You will not be disappointed.

Book news

Ancient mysteries

Posted by on Thursday, Jul 1, 2010 - 5:14 PM

Are you fascinated with ancient inventions and mysterious structures and legends from very long ago?
In Imagining Atlantis, Richard Ellis starts with Plato ‘s account of utopia and surveys the history of its continual fascination through the 20th century. Truth? Myth? Parable? Science Fiction? Atlantis has been an endless source of speculation. Ellis has written an appealing historical and archaeological detective story.

The Terra Cotta Army: China’s First Emperor and the Birth of a Nation is the remarkable account of the group of life-size figures of warriors and horses buried with the First Emperor of China in 210 BCE. Historian John Man tells of the discovery and the history of these amazing sculptures. Photos of the “eternal army” are included.

Stonehenge is another enduring subject of wonder. I encounter it every day as my computer screensaver. Interpretations of its meaning range from esoteric to silly . Science philosopher John North takes a scholarly look in Stonehenge: a New Interpretation of Prehistoric Man and the Cosmos. Ancient earthworks expressing religious purposes relied on ancient Britons’ belief that supernatural power resided in the heavens. Their astronomical observations were the genesis of modern astronomy .

The Technology of the Ancient Greeks by Kostas Kotsanas reveals engineering feats from sundials and clocks to cranes (including a “stone throwing crane) to the “automatic opening of the temple gates after sacrifice had taken place on its altar.” Pictures of the inventions are included. This is a fun book for engineers and others whose intellectual curiosity knows no bounds.

Book news

Summer Fun

Posted by SusanM on Tuesday, Jun 8, 2010 - 3:31 PM

stopswap100.jpgThe heat and humidity have arrived. Officially it may not be summer yet, but the weather tells me it can’t be far off. In anticipation of those lazy, hazy days of summer, the staff at the Westport Library has something fun and new planned for all of you who love to read and love to tell us what you’ve read. This summer we’re having a summer reading club for adults! We’re calling it Stop and Swap, because we want you to stop in and share with us and other readers what you’ve read. In return, you’ll get some great ideas and suggestions from your new friends, staff and surprise guests. Every Monday night at 7:30 pm and Tuesday mornings at 10 am, the Sheffer Reading Room will be our drop-in location. If you can’t make it in, you can still participate online through the library website, where you’ll find all the details.

I’m hoping that many of our book club members participate in our reading program this summer. Many book clubs take a break over the summer months, and this is a perfect opportunity to come back in the fall with a great selection of new and interesting titles to suggest to your book group. A few years ago we held a Title Swap for book clubs that was a huge success and Stop and Swap will be very similar, but will be open to all library patrons.

I’m going to start you off with a few titles that I would like to share. I just finished reading The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman and I highly recommend it. It’s the story of an international newspaper that is slowly succumbing to the pressures of producing a traditional print newspaper in an age of instant information. Mr. Rachman, a former newspaper editor and foreign correspondent, tells his story through a series of interconnected character studies. This debut novel is original, cleverly written, a quick read and a perfect way to start off the summer.

Another one of my recent favorites is Elizabeth Berg’s, The Last Time I Saw You. Have you ever gone to a high school reunion or ever thought about going to yours? If so, then this is a must read. Ms. Berg has gathered together all the typical high school types – the jocks, the in crowd, the cool girls and all those who just never fit in. As they all come together for the big event it’s amusing to see what happens and if all their expectations will be fulfilled. Baby Boomers will definitely love this fun, fast read. It is perfect for the beach.

So sign up at the library beginning this Saturday, June 12th for the start of our Stop and Swap reading program. If you can’t make it in, register online. For some suggestions to get you started, we’ve posted our Book Bash Favorites. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon.


Posted by on Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 12:41 PM

I am a fan of good short stories and novels that are interlinking short stories…and of fiction in which the characters are so strongly and astutely portrayed that the reader cannot wait to find out what they will do next.
Recently, we hosted Geoffrey Becker who talked about his book Hot Springs. In it, a birth mother decides to kidnap her adopted daughter and it’s her reasons for doing so and the unexpected response of the adopted mother and the other people in the story that grab the reader’s attention. Strong characters and vivid settings lend a sense of inevitability to the story, while the unreliability of the characters adds suspense. A good, fast read.

Matt Debenham is a local author whose book of short stories The Book of Right and Wrong also takes you into the lives of characters whose moral compasses are uncertain. In Beard of Bees, a man wants to impress his family with his ability to perform with real bees as a beard, but he is unprepared and unsure and a little out of control. Will it work?
For a review by Westporter Nina Sankovitch.
Meet Matt Debenham at the Library on September 2 at 7:30 pm.

Antonya Nelson ‘s Nothing Right is a collection of short stories that lingers in your mind. In the title story, Nelson nails a slightly jaded, single mother trying to understand her teenage son, whose troubles at school lead her to greater understanding. Nelson’s insights are unflinching and do not guarantee happy endings. Complex relationships are sustained with everyday rituals and details. After this book, you suspect that the lives of those around you are much more complicated than they appear to be.

Well-written characters provide psychological insights- always a significant part of my interest in the books I read. Recently while browsing the Library shelves, I found On Politics and the Art of Acting by Arthur Miller. Written just after the 2000 presidential election, it presents the roles assumed by presidents from FDR to George W Bush. Miller makes some fascinating observations, including the idea that both George W and Al Gore assumed roles that did not mesh with their true characters and consequently neither seemed authentic. A good actor does not make you love him, but makes you want him to love you, Miller says. He touches on other “tricks of the trade” that politicians need to be successful. An interesting little book.

Book news

A Difficult War

Posted by SusanM on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - 2:51 PM

Vietnam.jpgA brief article in the NYTimes the other day reminded me that April 30th was the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, the official end to the Vietnam War. This war, or conflict as it was often referred to, was a defining point for the baby boomer generation. Many of us came of age, especially politically, during this turbulent time. The war was opposed by many Americans, both on moral and practical grounds. Over 3,000,000 people died in Vietnam including 58,000 Americans. Over 150,000 Americans were wounded. While there have been many books written about this war, there are a few that stand out as excellent portrayals of this conflict.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien has long been a favorite of book clubs. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1990, this book is a combination of novel, memoir and short story collection. Although many of the stories are based on fact, others are pure fiction. O’Brien has tied them all together to provide one of the best fiction books about the nature of war. As a Vietnam veteran, O’Brien has made that experience a recurring theme in his books, including his National Book Award winner Going after Cacciato, about a Vietnam deserter.

War and the horrors that surround it can be a difficult topic about which to read. In The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli, Ms. Soli has written about love in the time of war. The story of an American female photojournalist in Vietnam, Ms. Soli has done a great deal of research about the Vietnam conflict and the role the media had in capturing the experience for the world to see. Haunting and beautifully written, this is an impressive debut novel.

The Man from Saigon by Marti Leimbach, is also about a female journalist who eventually finds herself captured by the Vietcong. Set in 1967, Susan Gifford, a woman’s magazine writer, becomes romantically involved with two men while covering the war. Part adventure, part romance, this is Vietnam from a woman’s point of view.

Another new addition to Vietnam literature is Matterhorn: A novel of the Vietnam War, by Karl Marlantes. Mr. Marlantes is a Vietnam veteran and he has written an epic novel about the lives of an American troop in Vietnam. Filled with many complex characters, Marlantes has captured the reality of the day to day conflict and the social issues - race, drugs, and politics – that contributed to this controversial war.

War novels can be difficult to embrace, but at a time when our country is fighting on two fronts, Afghanistan and Iraq, such novels are particularly timely. Consider adding one of these titles to your book group’s list. Let smadeo [at] westportlibrary [dot] org (me )know if you need copies or a discussion more

Book news

The Maid & the Mathematician

Posted by on Thursday, May 6, 2010 - 4:08 PM

James R. Newman (1907-1966) was a mathematician, historian and lawyer who held several positions in the United States government. He was an editor at Scientific American and first suggested the mathematical concept “googol” which was adapted to the “Google” we all know and love. His four volume book The World of Mathematics was a surprise best seller.

Flamboyant, extremely intelligent and unbearably confident, he lived with a series of female lovers who came and went in the same house as his brilliant and insecure wife. Newman’s daughter has written a memoir about her father and the family’s beloved maid, Jenniemae Harrington. Jenniemae weighed 350 pounds, was illiterate and was as certain of what she knew to be true as James was. Jenniemae received guidance in her dreams for the placing of bets which almost always won. This fascinated James, who rejected the notion that the numbers were divinely selected. Jenniemae and James became fast friends- outspoken with each other and full of mutual understanding in spite of their vast differences. James taught Jenniemae how to read. Brooke Newman tells the story with the insight- and the dialogue- of hindsight in Jenniemae and James: a Memoir in Black and White. The connection between Jenniemae and the Newmans is rock solid.

This quick read echoes the WestportREADS 2010 book The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, but is set in the real world of Washington DC in the fifties. Genius mathematician, famous friends (Einstein), unusual love interest, strong friendship between housekeeper & mathematician, children caught in the middle and a common interest in numbers. A satisfying memoir- more like a novel- which perfectly captures the unusual relationship which dominated the author’s childhood.

Book news

See what I'm saying?

Posted by on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 - 11:38 AM

What’s your learning style? Information is processed differently by each of us. Does the thought of your best friend bring forth his tone of voice and his favorite spoken expressions? Do you immediately see his favorite blue sweater? Or do you get that agitated inner feeling of frustration with his annoying habits?

Our senses are the pathways for processing input from the world around us. Usually one sense dominates. Find out which kind of learning you use most often. More on this.

Aural learners are the biggest fans of audio books, while visual learners seem to prefer the printed or online page. An interesting way to utilize the visual experience is by reading graphic novels. Still dismissed by some as “comic books,” graphic novels run the gamut of genre publishing from Charlie Brown to Maus. A graphic novel is a narrative using sequential art (it may be experimental or traditional) to convey the story. It can be fiction or non-fiction. Most graphic novels are more durable than comic books. The Library has an impressive collection of graphic novels- over 1000- for both adults and children. Just like other books in the Library collection, graphic novels are selected with either the adult or the child readers in mind.

In 2009, The Impostor’s Daughter by Laurie Sandell was published. This autobiography is the intriguing story of a larger-than-life father whose daughter felt confident and encouraged by his tales of adventure, until she found out the truth of his life. Sandell relates her own outsized escapades in a graphic novel that will keep you turning the pages…and may change your idea of this relatively new format. A unique story told in the author’s art. Sandell is a contributing editor at Glamour magazine.

Meet Laurie Sandell at the Library on Monday May 10 at 7:30 pm.

Book news

Read Alikes

Posted by SusanM on Wednesday, Apr 14, 2010 - 1:32 PM

books77.jpgWith over 50 registered book clubs to serve each month I sometimes have to do a little juggling to find enough books for each member who wants one. This becomes particularly difficult when many clubs request the same title at one time. There are so many books to choose from but understandably book clubs often want to pick the book everyone’s talking about, or a title from the best seller list. Even if you have to wait a little longer to get the book you want, don’t worry, because with over 1 million books published each year there are more than a few excellent choices for you to consider.

Fans of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson might be interested in trying one of Kate Atkinson’s novels. Known for her complex characters, Ms. Atkinson has written a series of literary crime thrillers, Case Histories, One Good Turn and When Will There Be Good News, that will keep you thoroughly engaged. Atkinson’s books are filled with many interesting characters and intricate plotlines. Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg is another good choice for fans of international mysteries. Part murder mystery, part political intrigue, this is a great story with a strong female protagonist.

If your club is still waiting to read The Help by Kathryn Stockett, you might want to consider Thrity Umrigar’s The Space Between Us. Very popular with book clubs a few years ago, this novel relates the story of a slum dweller in India and the middle class woman for whom she works. Although money and class separate them, the many bonds that they share as women make them more similar than they might seem at first glance. This is a thought provoking book that will provide an interesting discussion for your group. Mudbound by Hilary Jordan is set in rural Mississippi in 1946. It follows two families, one white, one black as they struggle to make a living from the land. The racism and social injustice of this time period is vividly portrayed. Filled with lots of characters who each bring their own point of view to the story, your club will have lots to discuss after reading this one.

There are so many terrific books to consider when choosing for your club. We’ll always do our best to try and accommodate everyone, but if you need a recommendation or suggestion, please let smadeo [at] westportlibrary [dot] org (me) know. We have a long list of book club favorites that will give you the opportunity to try a great book which you might not otherwise have selected. I’m always happy to help and love to talk about books!read more

Book news