Staff Picks

Don't forget to check out our staff picks for kids!

March 12, 2012

Milk: A Local And Global History

Milk: A Local And Global History
by Valenze, Deborah
641.37109 VAL

Got milk? Probably. Most Americans have milk sitting in their refrigerators right now. It’s a staple part of school lunches and your favorite latte. But people didn’t always think that milk does a body good. In fact, in some centuries milk drinkers were considered barbarians of weak moral character. And before the advent of modern science, milk was thought to be a form of blood, suitable for drink only by infants and the infirm. In her chronicle of the history of milk, Deborah Valenze walks us through the changing roles of milk in human society, from a symbol of divine provision to a marker of status and luxury to a universal necessity for health and well-being. We learn how cow’s milk came to prominence over goat’s milk and why our country’s wars have been so important to modern milk developments. If you usually only think of milk as a way to soften your morning cereal, this book will give you new insight on the power of that white liquid peeking out through your Cheerios.

— Recommended by Rebekah Koves, Central Library


March 5, 2012

The Doll: The Lost Short Stories

The Doll: The Lost Short Stories
by Du Maurier, Daphne

Short stories are not to everyone’s taste. For me they too often seem like exercises in construction rather than storytelling. However I have found an exception to this (admittedly) sweeping generality.  Daphne du Maurier's The Doll is a collection of stories, many of which were previously printed in magazines during the 1930's and not reprinted again until this collection.  Du Maurier, famous for the novels Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, writes with great insight, using a sharp wit and an ability to construct a tightly woven tale to either pull at your heart or creep out your nerves, and occasionally both. "The Doll," a bizarre creation that starts off as a love story before sharply turning into Stephen King territory, and "East Wind," about the effects of a ship full of sailors on an isolated island, both contain surprise endings that shock. Others beautifully examine the heartbreaking way our ability (or lack thereof) to communicate can crush hopes and damage lives, as in "A Difference in Temperament" and "The Limpet," the second title being an uncomfortable look at those who think they are "helpful."

If you are looking for a set of short stories that are full of surprises and variety, The Doll is an excellent choice.

— Recommended by Deanna Long, East Washington Branch


February 27, 2012

A Secret Gift: How One Man’s Kindness--And A Trove Of Letters--Revealed The Hidden History Of The Great Depression

A Secret Gift: How One Man’s Kindness--And A Trove Of Letters--Revealed The Hidden History Of The Great Depression
by Gup, Ted
977.162 GUP

It’s Christmastime 1933 and Canton, Ohio is in the depths of the Great Depression.  Families are struggling for the barest necessities, and hope is hard to find.  Then on December 18, an ad in the newspaper appears, offering money to families in need, with the understanding that the identities of the giver and the recipients would never be known.  The ad is signed "B. Virdot."

Seventy-five years later, Ted Gup, an investigative report for the Washington Post, receives an old suitcase from his mother.  Among the scrapbooks and photographs is an envelope filled with letters addressed to Mr. B. Virdot and a newspaper ad.  Intrigued, Gup tries to track down the descendants of the letter writers and discover how, or if, their lives were changed by the gifts.

Gup unearths stories of poverty, resilience, and redemption, but he also discovers secrets about his grandfather kept hidden for decades.  The letters and their writers’ stories reveal truths about the Great Depression not found in history books, and offers inspiration for our own era of hard times.

— Recommended by Ellen Flexman, Eagle Branch


February 20, 2012

The Vanishing Of Katharina Linden

The Vanishing Of Katharina Linden
by Grant, Helen

This fascinating thriller reeled me in with its first line: "My life might have been so different, had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother exploded."

While the story’s narrator, Pia, is a child, this is absolutely a tale for adults. Despite doses of humor, the action at times is truly terrifying. After her grandmother becomes the unfortunate victim of a combination of Advent candles and Aquanet hairspray, Pia is the class pariah and somehow ends up being implicated in the disappearances of several of her schoolmates. Pia and her unwanted "friend," Stink Stefan, decide to solve the crimes on their own, enlisting only the help of Herr Schiller, a kindly old friend of the family, who arms them with local folklore and ghost stories. Their hometown, Bad Munstereifel, is a perfect setting for tales of the Brothers Grimm. But despite Pia’s imaginings, the creature responsible for kidnapping and killing local girls is no otherworldly troll or ogre.

And the kids are in more danger than they know.

— Recommended by Emily Talbott, Nora Branch


February 13, 2012

Hunting Eichmann: How A Band Of Survivors And A Young Spy Agency Chased Down The World’s Most Notorious Nazi

Hunting Eichmann: How A Band Of Survivors And A Young Spy Agency Chased Down The World’s Most Notorious Nazi
by Bascomb, Neal
B Eichmann, Adolf BAS

A master novelist could not create a more thrilling spy caper than this true account of the 15 year search for the infamous Nazi Adolph Eichmann, the man who was responsible for transporting millions of Jews to concentration camps.  Bascomb’s excellent research and focused writing bring post-war Europe alive as he recounts the exhaustive efforts of Simon Wiesenthal and others to trace Eichmann to Argentina. With cold-war politics taking center stage in the 1950s and no government interested in arresting Eichmann, the job falls to the Israeli spy agency Mossad. The author's interviews with several of the agents lead to personal insights into what the agents--many of whom were persecuted during the war and lost family in the Holocaust--went through during their dangerous mission, and the devastating emotional impact of facing their enemy. Bascomb illustrates how significant and galvanizing Eichmann’s trial and execution were for the world, and Israel in particular, at a time when many wanted to forget the horrors of the war.

— Recommended by Nicole James, College Avenue Library