Staff Picks

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

March 2, 2015

Girl In Translation

Girl In Translation
by Kwok, Jean

This debut novel follows Kimberly Chang who moves to New York City from China eager to forge a new life. Almost immediately, she is forced to lead a secret double life when the house she and her mother were promised turns out to be a squalid Brooklyn apartment, and the "big American factory" is, in fact, a sweatshop. Distinguished student by day, Chinatown sweatshop worker by night, Kimberly faces the harsh realities of extreme poverty and the struggles of attempting to span two cultures. The author, herself an immigrant, details the lives of those like Kimberly who contend with language barriers, questions of identity and loyalty to family. A poignant story of heartache and hope, from a world that is most often shrouded in secrecy.

                 --Recommended by Jackie Kelly, Central Library


February 23, 2015

Yes Please

Yes Please
by Poehler, Amy
792.7028 Poehler POE

Amy Poehler is a master sketch comedian (comedienne). Her book is like her skits – it's funny, topical, and bounces around with great energy. She tells of her family, her many comedy experiences before her well known ones in Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation, and her friendship of many years with fellow improv alum, writer, actress, and co-Golden Globes host Tina Fey.

Poehler’s reaction to a childhood comment that she was funny-looking meant she didn’t focus on her looks – she focused on her talent. There’s a great lesson in that for people of any gender. (Of course, Poehler is actually very attractive, but focus on hard work and willingness to be a character chameleon serve her well.) No wonder Poehler is involved with the organization Smart Girls at the Party (which, according to, “is dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves.”)

Readers of screwball authors David Sedaris, Jenny Lawson, and others who enjoy tales of funny family life are likely to enjoy some of Poehler’s over-the-top recountings. But remember, her Boston-area upbringing wasn’t for sissies. Some of the language is strong, and so is some of the drinking and use of other substances. Poehler’s book isn’t always flattering, but it has the ring of candor. It’s heartening to hear that some of the things that irritate her; sadly, some of what irritated this reader was her repetition that it’s hard to write a book, and that she’s sleep deprived. One or two mentions of each would have been just fine.

Readers who like a linear, chronological narrative will probably find Yes Please choppy. I hadn’t known much about Upright Citizens Brigade, and would have enjoyed reading more about its New York era.

Poehler devotes some space in her book to love, marriage, and divorce, but there is more musing than meanness in the tidbits. Tales of her sons will make other parents smile in recognition. Parts that don’t appeal to some readers can be skimmed. Like a buffet – or an evening of improv - there’s a lot of choice stuff to nibble on.

 Yes Please is also available as a downloadable e-book, a downloadable audiobook, and an audiobook on CD.

                  --Recommended by Diane Palguta, College Avenue Library


February 16, 2015

American Grown: the Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America

American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America
by Obama, Michelle
635.09753 OBA

My love of gardening and my admiration for Michelle Obama drew me to this book. It seems that many nonfiction books are more than instructional these days, and that is a wonderful thing. The beauty of this particular title is that it incorporates history, information, ideas, suggestions and recipes all involving gardening.

During the Obamas' first spring in the White House the first lady began thinking about creating a garden on the White House lawn. This book is her sharing with everyone the process she went through to create a kitchen garden where food can be harvested to use for White House kitchen and for donating to a local shelter. Michelle has been an advocate for healthy eating and exercise, especially for children. In creating this White House garden she invited local school children to help in planting, maintaining and harvesting the produce. This was and continues to be a way for the students to learn where food really comes from and how good it is to eat foods straight from a garden. I know I long all winter for the juicy, delicious tomatoes from my garden that I pick in the summer, and to not have to eat the round red things that are labeled “tomatoes” at the grocery store. Mrs. Obama details how the White House garden had been planted and is harvested along with the trials and tribulations by compiling the information from a three year period with the book divided into the four seasons. The reader is also introduced to the experts who collaborated with the First Lady to make this garden a reality and the maps used in planning the garden.

This book is a fantastic compilation of gardening hints, tips, ideas, recipes and a brief history of the White House gardens. It is full of colorful pictures and illustrations that make it a visual pleasure. I enjoyed reading about the history of white house gardens and got many ideas for my own raised bed garden at my home. The pictures of the recipe creations look delicious and may cause me to eat healthier. And that would be quite a feat.

American Grown is also available as a downloadable audiobook and an audiobook on CD.

                     --Recommended by Kris Gould, Nora Library


February 9, 2015

The Endless Practice: Becoming Who You Were Born to Be

The Endless Practice: Becoming Who You Were Born to Be
by Nepo, Mark
204.4 NEP

At first glance, The Endless Practice may not seem different from any other self-actualization books. That soon changes once it falls open and reading begins. You will not want to put it down! Will you be visibly changed? Not likely. Inwardly changed, however, most definitely! Mark Nepo’s prose is sheer poetry and through it he is able to communicate a deep, empathetic understanding of readers’ personal life experiences. It’s as if Mark Nepo is walking hand in hand with them on their life’s journey. As one continues on its’ as if the author is taking the reader’s hand and holding it to convey compassion or consolation (as if to say, “It’s really OK”). He leads one down a path filled with new and rich insights. If you’re in need of some encouragement on your life journey then check out this title. Experience firsthand how inspiring and reassuring it can be. As one person described it, it’s a “field guide to being human.”

                        --Recommended by Mary Agnes Hylton, Eagle Library


February 2, 2015

The Short and Tragic life Of Robert Peace

The Short and Tragic life Of Robert Peace
by Hobbs, Jeff
B Peace, Robert HOB

The story is in fact a tragic and emotional story of African American male Robert Peace. The story of a young man who survived the streets of Newark, New Jersey, to earn a full scholarship to Yale, only to be murdered in suspected drug deal.

Robert grows up in the projects of Newark, NJ and East Orange. He is raised by his mother Jackie while his father, ‘Skeet” sits in jail for murder. Jackie realizes that Robert has potential in academics and she finds a way by working long hours to make sure Robert gets a valued education from one of the local catholic schools.

The story is told by Jeff Hobbs, Robert’s roommate at Yale. The story examines race, class, community and privilege, and the two separate worlds of Robert Peace.

— Recommended by Gregory Hill, African-American History Committee