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Staff Picks

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

January 30, 2012

Blood Of The Prodigal

Blood Of The Prodigal
by Gaus, Paul L.
MYS G274b

This is the first of the Ohio Amish series  of mysteries that Gaus has set in Holmes County, Ohio, which according to the book jacket is "home to the largest Amish and Mennonite settlements in the world." The story involves a son who has been exiled from his family for failing to live by the Amish code. There's a kidnapping and a murder. An Amish bishop reluctantly asks a couple of "English" (non-Amish, in other words) for help.

The novel opens with Jeremiah Miller, an Amish ten-year-old who has discovered that he loves solitude. The start of his morning is so nicely captured that I was almost disappointed when reminded that this was a mystery, and that this kid was going to be caught up in some plot. But the story, and the involvement of outsiders with the Amish, are well handled. The library owns six more titles in the series, and I'd like to read on, even though I have doubts about the author's ability to set that many murder stories in the Amish community. I guess there's only one way to find out how he does it.

— Recommended by Glenn Halberstadt, Information Technology


January 23, 2012

The Novel: An Alternative History: Beginnings To 1600

The Novel: An Alternative History: Beginnings To 1600
by Moore, Steven
809.3 MOO

Our author is fed up with Tom Wolfe and other complainers who insist that fiction should fit the "realistic" mold that they understand and practice. Such carping reminds Steven Moore of the totalitarian insistence on "realism" in Soviet fiction. He's also impatient with the story that the English invented the novel during the 18th century. "Wrong. The novel has been around since at least the 4th century BCE (Xenophon's Cyropaedia) and flourished in the Mediterranean area until the coming of the Christian dark ages." So Moore comes out snarling.

Once you get past the intro, you may be surprised and even offended by some of the literature that he classifies as fiction (e.g., the narrative portions of the Bible) and you may not have read many of the works that he discusses. He seems to have read everything in the world, though, and makes me want to read more of it. Unlike him, I love Eric Clapton's song, "Layla," and Moore's commentary has whetted my appetite for the medieval Persian novel that inspired the song. (Yes, George Harrison's wife inspired the song. There was also this novel.) Our library doesn't own all these titles, but you can apply for interlibrary loans or request that we purchase something.

— Recommended by Virginia Gamely, Lake of the Coheeries Branch


January 16, 2012

In The Sanctuary Of Outcasts: A Memoir

In The Sanctuary Of Outcasts: A Memoir
by White, Neil
B: White, Neil

Neil White was a successful businessman who wanted to become even more successful. Unfortunately, his publishing business couldn’t support his lifestyle and he resorted to kiting checks to keep his business afloat. The law eventually caught up with him and he was sentenced to 18 months in a federal prison. Carville, Louisiana penitentiary not only housed prison inmates--it was also America’s last leprosarium (leper colony).

After his initial surprise and fear, White started to form relationships with some of the patients. He learned that they preferred the name Hansen’s Disease rather than leprosy and that many of them had spent most of their lives at Carville. One patient, Ella, had been taken from her home as a 12 year old child and left to live out her life at the leprosarium. White developed a bond with Ella. She offered him advice on making the most of his time in prison and showed him that though life might be difficult it doesn’t have to leave you bitter and unhappy.

This is one man’s story of hubris, downfall, and redemption. Neil White tells his story with humor, compassion, and insight and an understanding that a person can change his life for the better.

— Recommended by Kim Vanderwilt, Lawrence Branch


January 9, 2012

The Disappearing Spoon:  And Other True Tales Of Madness, Love, And The History Of The World From The Periodic Table Of The Elements

The Disappearing Spoon:  And Other True Tales Of Madness, Love, And The History Of The World From The Periodic Table Of The Elements
by Kean, Sam
546 KEA

Where was this book when I was taking chemistry and trying to pull information from the periodic table? Kean takes the reader through the entire periodic table and along the way he includes odd facts, history, mythology, and stories of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them. His often witty insights make the reading and learning entertaining and useful.  There are a lot of funny and intriguing stories about the development and use of the table, such as how the founder of Parker pens was able to corner the market in the 1940’s by using ruthenium in the tips of fountain pens; or the purported CIA plan to poison Fidel Castro by putting thallium in his socks; or using gallium--which looks like a solid metal at room temperature but melts into a puddle if held in the hand--in magic tricks. This is a good read even if you only read it for the stories and not the science.

— Recommended by Lygia Bischoff, Pike Branch


January 2, 2012

Out Of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa

Out Of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa
by Richburg, Keith B.
306.0967 RIC

The author landed in Nairobi, Kenya, to begin his three-year tour as the Washington Post’s African bureau chief with some misgivings. His undergraduate courses in African studies and the popular "African roots" idea among black Americans painted a rosier picture of the continent than contemporary news reports would seem to justify.  Before long he would be standing on a bridge watching hacked-up bodies and body parts floating down the Kagera River, some of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Rwandan genocide. Later, as an early advocate of U.S. intervention in the chaotic tribal butchery in Somalia, he would see our ignominious retreat after the bloody failure in that effort, dramatized in the movie "Blackhawk Down." In country after country he saw the dispiriting slide of independent former colonies into tribal warfare and corrupt kleptocratic dictatorships that impoverished their people. His guilty conclusion: that the slavery his ancestors endured had the lucky result of making him a black American, but not an African-American.

— Recommended by Melinda Mullican, Wayne Branch