Staff Picks

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

July 1, 2013

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
by Boo, Katherine
305.5690954 BOO

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a non-fiction book beautifully written like a novel by Pulitzer-winning newspaper journalist Katherine Boo. She spent three years interviewing and consulting with the poor inhabitants of an under-city slum, “Annawadi”, at the edge of Mumbai’s new, modern, and opulent airport.

Many of the inhabitants make a living picking up the airport’s garbage and garbage floating in a large polluted lake left by the affluent tourists. They are the poorest of the poor of India.

The book details the abject poverty, the absolute political corruption, along with the tireless efforts of the people of Annawadi. Abdul, a Muslim teenager, along with other boys, scavenges for saleable garbage. Some boys die or are murdered. A teenage girl, Meena, eats rat poison rather than become married to a poor villager.

Abdul is falsely charged with causing a one-legged prostitute, Fatima, to set herself on fire. The corruption and brutality of the police, the judicial system, and the politicians is rampant. His sister and father are also charged and finally exonerated at the end of the book. His fate remains undetermined.

Other inhabitants are Asha who uses the corrupt political system to improve her status and that of her daughter who wishes to be Annawadi’s first college graduate.

The title of the book comes from a brightly-colored ad for floor tiles across a wall dividing Annawadi from the view of travelers leaving the airport. Behind the Beautiful Forevers gives us a sad, poignant look at what is a way of life for millions of poor. I am both sad and grateful for having read this book and recommend it to anyone who doesn’t appreciate what we have in these United States.

This book is also available as a downloadable ebook, a downloadable audiobook, an audiobook on CD and in large print.  

                                     — Recommended by Pamela Gullion, Fountain Square Library, where this book will be discussed on Thursday, July 11th at 1:30 p.m. 

 

June 24, 2013

Into the Darkest Corner

Into the Darkest Corner
by Haynes, Elizabeth
FIC HAY

What young woman doesn’t dream of Mr. Wonderful walking into her life, sweeping her off her feet, riding off into the sunset with her? So when Lee Brightman comes into Cathy Bailey’s life, she’s rightfully smitten. After all, he’s gorgeous and obviously equally taken with her. At first it’s all wonderful and Cathy thinks she’s being too picky, but then, as Lee becomes more and more controlling and abusive, Cathy realizes that no, it’s not her, it’s him. Fast forward four years and Lee is in jail and Cathy is endlessly checking doors and windows, obsessively and compulsively, trying to control her life and her fears. The author skillfully alternates between the two time periods, building suspense, and we know it’s coming, that Lee will get out of jail, that he will come for her, and we’re waiting for it in much the same way as Cathy waited, terrified, for Lee’s next attack. This story is much more than a thriller; it is a masterful analysis of how abuse begins subtly and embeds its tentacles so deeply into a woman’s psyche, that before she realizes what’s happened, she’s trapped, without resources, with no escape, and no one to hear her cries for help.

                                     — Recommended by Cheryl Holtsclaw, West Indianapolis Library

 

June 17, 2013

Milk Eggs Vodka: Grocery Lists Lost and Found

Milk Eggs Vodka: Grocery Lists Lost and Found
by Keaggy, Bill
818.6 KEA

Do you use lists for your grocery shopping? Then you most certainly lose one occasionally and never give it a thought. After years of “hunting and gathering” those lists from abandoned shopping carts and parking lots, Bill Keaggy has put together an entertaining collection of them, reproduced on every page for you to read and laugh at, and repeat. It’s a deliciously amusing (and yes--voyeuristic), look at little private notes meant only for the person who writes them, their shorthand, doodles and smears all part of the fun. In addition to simply what people buy, the lists also say a lot about the state of people’s spelling and penmanship, with items like mayonnaise, bananas and Febreze topping the fail list.

Keaggy compiled the lists based on several themes and organized them into 20 chapters. These include “Just Plain Funny,” “Sad Grocery Lists,” (which are pretty funny), and “Eating Wrong.” The chapter “All-American Lists” features a list from each of the 50 states, about half gleaned through Keaggy’s web site grocerylists.org. Indiana’s list is lol funny and seems to support the health stats we read about for our state. Hint: Pop Tarts, chips and donuts.

On every page there’s an interesting fact or statistic about something related to groceries. For example, Vernors Ginger Ale apparently was the first soda pop made in the U.S.--in Detroit, Michigan in 1866. But it’s Keaggy’s often snarky critiques of every list that make this collection even more enjoyable. In the chapter on sad grocery lists, a note reads: “silver polish, bread, grape juice, table cloth.” Simple enough. But take a look at the back of the note and it gets interesting: “No charge from funeral home. $345 – charge for opening grave.” Keaggy has a field day. “Oh my God! It’s a do-over! They have to open the grave and have another wake for the do-over.”

If you have a little extra time on your hands, this book is a fun way to spend it. And if you want to start your own compendium, (ahem, Ann), it’s a nice reference.

Milk Eggs Vodka is also available as a downloadable e-book.

                                                              — Recommended by Coral Mackenzie-Danforth, Lawrence Library

 

June 10, 2013

Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned

Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned
by Farrell, John A.
B Darrow, Clarence FAR

The folksy, rumpled lawyer who bested the famous William Jennings Bryan in the 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” was a complex character. After he built his skill and reputation as a company lawyer he devoted much of his career to advancing the organized labor movement in the late nineteenth century by defending union murderers who bombed buildings and homes. In several cases where his client’s guilt was undeniable, he argued [successfully!] that murder was justified because of the unfair business practices of the company owners and corrupt politicians they conspired with.

The level of violence employed by unions and companies in turn of the century Chicago is seldom appreciated today, nor is the enormous degree of corruption in the courts of the time. Modern references to the corrupt “Chicago way” are more readily understood after reading Mr. Farrell’s detailed account of that period. And Darrow himself prospered in it while denouncing the bribing of jurors by his adversaries and doing it himself, always claiming that his noble ends justified the otherwise immoral means. His vanity and his need for money – he was a notoriously unsuccessful investor – prompted him to take some surprising cases, such as defending Leopold and Loeb, the rich, teen sadistic murderers.

His continual infidelity to his wife, Ruby, and to his mistress, Mary, was an unattractive personal quality, but his courtroom prowess was rarely beaten over his half-century legal career.

                                                            — Recommended by Melinda Mullican, Wayne Library

 

June 3, 2013

The Silent Land

The Silent Land
by Joyce, Graham
FIC JOY

While traversing the slopes of the Pyrenees Mountains on an extended ski vacation, married couple Jake and Zoe awake to find themselves buried under a mound of snow. Having been caught in a massive avalanche, the two must now fight for survival. But upon returning to the once bustling holiday resort, they quickly realize that natural law is a thing of the past, and all that remains is a wasteland of silence and snow. Trapped in a place where remembering is as dangerous as forgetting, and nightmarish apparitions and incessant hallucinations haunt them at every turn, the two struggle to regain both their grip on reality and the will to live.

A superb blend of fantasy and horror, The Silent Land is like waking from a dream, only to find oneself in the midst of a nightmare. A true master of surrealism, Joyce effortlessly juxtaposes contrasting themes of the human condition: acceptance and denial, luck and fate, love and hate, but most of all, life and death. The Silent Land is as beautiful as it is eerie, and a must read for all those grappling with the idea of a hereafter.

— Recommended by Jeremy Weimer, Southport Library