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Staff Picks

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May 14, 2012

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
by Weatherford, Jack
950.2 WEA

Can you think of the changes in our understanding of history if a new text was found that added knowledge about a little known, or understood, culture? That is what has happened to our understanding of the ancient Mongolian people and especially Genghis Khan. The text of The Secret History of the Mongols was only translated into English in a readable format in 1982. Using this text and many other historical sources the author builds the case that the Mongols spread civilization by instituting religious freedom, public schools, new technology, freedom in art, government by ability rather than pedigree, and a trading system that rivaled anything known up to that date. In essence, the Mongols took the learning of Asia and the Middle East and spread it across Eastern Europe, setting the stage for the blossoming of knowledge in Western Europe. I found this new view of history fascinating. Not sure I agree with all the author's conclusions, but it was enlightening to see how these ancient cultures flowed together to create the world we know today.

— Recommended by Lygia Bischoff, Pike Branch


May 7, 2012

Some Girls Bite

Some Girls Bite
by Neill, Chloe

Looking for a new paranormal read to fill the time while you wait for your favorite authors’ newest book? Look no further than Some Girls Bite, by Chloe Neill. Neill’s heroine, 27-year-old Merit, is thrown into the Chicago vampire scene against her will, but quickly realizes she has no other choice than to make the most of a bad situation. Merit must learn just exactly how to be a vampire; pledge loyalty to her new Master and savior, Ethan; and figure out just who is setting up her new vampire brethren, Cadogan House, to take the wrap for a potential war lurking on the horizon. And of course there’s also the little problem of Ethan being the most incredible-looking but stubborn-headed man that Merit has ever laid eyes on. Readers will love following Merit on her journey to becoming who she is destined to be, while still holding on to pieces of herself that made her who she was before her life turned upside down.

— Recommended by Aimee Bittle, Garfield Park Library


April 30, 2012

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
by Ford, Jamie

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet takes place in the 1940’s in Seattle, Washington. It is the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and many Chinese and Japanese Americans find themselves to be targets of discrimination. This is the story of Henry Lee, a twelve year old Chinese American boy and Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American girl. Their story is one of deep friendship that endures inspite of parental disapproval, childhood bullies, prejudice, separations and Japanese American Internment camps. Forty-six years later, Keiko and Henry meet again. Are their feelings of first love strong enough to overcome what fate has dealt them? Jamie Ford has given us a glimpse into a sad time in American history with a beautifully written story.

— Recommended by Millicent Jackson, East 38th Street Branch


April 23, 2012

Falling Upward: Essays in Defense of the Imagination

Falling Upward: Essays in Defense of the Imagination
by Siegel, Lee
700 SIE

Here's a critic who loved Stanley Kubrick's film "Eyes Wide Shut," which was panned by the critics I read when it was released. They thought it was garbage. Sometime afterward, I sent a bizarre letter to a friend, complete with stills, explaining why I liked the movie. But--influenced as I was by the negative reviews--I put forth the theory that Kubrick had been deranged, hadn't known what he was doing, and had made a great dream movie without understanding that he was making a dream movie. Lee Siegel will have none of that.

Also in this book: A wonderful essay about Jane Austen, an appreciation of J. K. Rowling, an anti-appreciation of the way television covered Pope John Paul II's funeral, and a ballistic anti-appreciation of Barbara Kingsolver. I've never read Kingsolver's books, due to my fear that each one was awaiting the moment when Robert Redford would turn it into a well-meaning film. So why bother to read Siegel's essay about her? Because the opening section, too strange to describe here, collared me and wouldn't let me stop; and now I'm proud of myself for having known paranormally that I should avoid her.

Which is stupid. If you've read anything by Kingsolver, read this essay. Your reaction will have to be more intelligent than mine.

— Recommended by Glenn Halberstadt, Information Technology


April 16, 2012

Love Finds You In Branson, Missouri

Love Finds You In Branson, Missouri
by Faulkenberry, Gwen Ford

After reading dark mysteries, I thought it was time to brighten things up by reading an inspirational romance novel. Love Finds You in Branson, Missouri is part of the Love Finds You series. The novels in the series inspire romance, history, travel and spirituality. Ellie Heinrichs is an aspiring actress who longs to be on Broadway. She receives a call from her agent to notify her that she was chosen for the lead role of a play, but there is one catch...the play is in Branson, Missouri, whereas Ellie dreams of performing in New York on Broadway. Upon embarking on her journey to Branson, Ellie's mother presents her with her great-grandmother's diary. As Ellie reads her great-grandmother's coming of age story, she soon realizes how closely intertwined her own story is with her great-grandmother's story. Readers are taken on Ellie's journey as she reluctantly fulfills her role in the play. She soon learns that things in Branson are not quite as bad as she thought. Ellie's journey allows her to explore romance, spirituality and opportunity. But Ellie is unexpectedly given the opportunity to audition for a role on Broadway. Readers will definitely be surprised at the twists and turns along Ellie's journey.

— Recommended by Kim Jones, Lawrence Branch