Advice for Readers

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon, Lakeview Book Club Notes

          

Hello Everyone,

 What a great meeting about Telegraph Hill by Michael Chabon!

 There were 10 of us and our leader did a great job! She had done research on Michael Chabon and told us about his early life in Columbia, Maryland in an almost utopian middle class Black and White community. This background gave credence to his depicting a multiracial/multicultural world on Telegraph Avenue. One member told us that she knows Michael Chabon, because their children attended the same school. She said he is a really nice person. Other members have heard him speak at other venues and thought he seemed shy, almost childlike, but seemed really nice.

 Our discussion leader set the stage for us by finding a play list of 126 of the 128 musical mentions in the book. We sat down to the background music of sweet/funky jazz played on an Ipad. We were provided with a long list of Chabon’s awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. Our leader’s assessment of reviews was that Telegraph Avenue was critically acclaimed, but regular readers either loved it or hated it.

 Her first question of our members, who have lived in Oakland for a long time, was whether the depiction of Telegraph Avenue in the past actually was correct for the time. The group discussed how the Bay Area has changed demographically over the last 30ish years. One member pointed out that Oakland used to have a 50% Black population and now Oakland is 25% Black, 25% White, 25% Asian and 25% Hispanic/Other. In other words the Black population has gone down in the recent years. There was "Black Flight" to Atlanta and Antioch due to the difficult conditions here. Overall the members of the group, who were in Oakland in the past, thought Chabon's depiction was accurate.

 Discussions next were of the structure of the book, the character development and themes. We figured the themes were Shared Community, Fatherhood and Racism.

 People liked the relationship between Gwen and Aviva. Gwen and Aviva had the most stable relationship of the characters in the novel. The character Gwen questioned her relationship to the community she lived in. She wondered if she should be with her own community. She did, however, feel she was not supported by members of her own community. The book club members disagreed as to whether the two women were the main characters of the novel. One member pointed out that women are the foundation of every society. This might mean that if they were not the main characters of the book, they were the foundation, the stability, of the book.

 Members thought the description of childbirth was really accurate. As various times during the discussion a member mentioned a page number and read a passage she thought to be outstanding. The childbirth passage was one of these. One member said that WAS her childbirth experience. Members thought that the character, Gwen, was justified in telling off the racist doctor.

 Another passage that members liked was where Gwen talked about enduring life's difficulties, and there is no way that you can prevent those negative perceptions from being passed on to the next generations. We thought her comment on marriage being based on deception and lies to be profound. People are all flawed, but look for a unit to belong to.

 One member commented that it was passages like these that kept her reading, although she found it difficult to stay engaged throughout the novel. This member liked the second half the book best. Another liked the beginning better.

 The character, Luther, is a tragic person in the novel. He never reached his dreams, yet never gave up on those dreams, unlike most people who become disillusioned and, therefore, adjust their life views to be resigned to what life has given them.

 Regarding the style, the group discussed chapter 58, which has no period. Most people didn't care. One compared it to James Joyce. That person said that Oakland was to Michael Chabon as Dublin was to James Joyce (or vice versa). Another member strongly disagreed to a comparison of Chabon to James Joyce. That member said that Chabon was no James Joyce. She could read James Joyce all day and love it and she could not make it through Telegraph Avenue. She thought the endless "guy" details about records and comics and other such minutia was an insurmountable barrier to continuing with the book. Others agreed. Several couldn't finish the book. They thought that Chabon was "full of himself" and his choice of words. They thought he was intellectual, i.e. left brained, and unable to catch the reader emotionally the way that James Baldwin did for us in Another Country.

 One member didn't like the characters, couldn't keep them straight and generally got bogged down in the details. Other comments on style had to do with stream of consciousness passages and another chapter of 30-40 pages without a period in it. A comment was made about there being a "little pomposity," and another member immediately said, "A LOT." Members of the group who had trouble staying engaged, who are in their 50's, 60's and 70's, felt life was too short to push through this book. One mentioned that she might have liked it better if she read it in her 30's.

 Several mentioned that the reader couldn't tell what race the characters were. Some thought that was a good thing and others thought it was a problem. We all wondered what Black people would think of this book, in fact, would Black people even read this book?

 One comment was that Chabon was trying to write the Great American Novel. Many thought he did not succeed. One thought that maybe with the passage of time, this book would be considered as the Great American Novel. Someone asked what is considered The Great American Novel. Two suggestions came out, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Moby Dick.

 Several comments on the use of jargon which they thought very accurate, such as the use of the words Shameless and Scand'lous. One comment was the beauty of the dedication of the book to Chabon's wife, referring to phonograph records, "from the drop of the needle to the innermost groove."

 Regarding the symbolism and plot devices one member pointed out the clever choices of Chabon such as the owner of the Blimp, who was as big as a blimp, that the book begins with a death and a birth and ends that way...that the theme is about the cycle of life which is set is a record store...where records are round.

 We discussed the locations cited in the book and commented that there really is a record store on one of the locations.

 So the consensus seemed to be just as predicted, Michael Chabon is a brilliant writer, who uses words and plot and style in ways others have not quite done. His insights are true and places in this novel shine beautifully, yet around half of the group, though understanding why people really like Chabon, or even this novel, could not expend the energy to stick with it. The clever writing wasn't enough. Those people wanted to connect with the characters emotionally and just were never able to do so.

 So often we agree overall as to the merits and general enjoyment of a book we have chosen, yet for this title we were almost equally divided, but loved to hear what our friends thought. This is a wonderful group!

 Thank you all for sharing.

=====

 (Any misinterpretation of anything found in my notes or memory is all mine. Please accept my apology if I misheard, misunderstood and/or misquoted any of you.)

 Happy Reading,

 Mary Farrell, Branch Manager, Lakeview Branch

 

 

Chef Memoirs and Other Delicious Titles

During the past six weeks the library has been hosting food related programs and events for adults as part of our Reading is So Delicious Summer Reading Program.  In keeping with this theme, I've highlighted memoirs written by chefs and food writers.

Yes, Chef     Four Kitchens     Nine Lives     Life, On the Line

Heat     Spoon Fed     Steal the Menu     Cooked

Yes, chef : a memoir / Marcus Samuelsson
Marcus Samuelsson was a young child when his mother fled her Ethiopian village for Addis Abba with her two children in tow to seek a cure for tuberculosis.  His mother died and Samuelsson was adopted by a Swedish family.  He developed a love of cooking from his Swedish grandmother who he helped in the kitchen on Saturday mornings.  Samuelsson's memoir explores the chef's journey from his grandmother's kitchen in Sweden to his adventures in New York at Aquavit  and eventually to the opening of his restaurant, Red Rooster, in Harlem.  Committed to creating a diverse kitchen and dining room, Samuelsson works with young people from various backgrounds to help them develop a place in the kitchen and welcomes jazz musicians, presidents and ordinary people into his restaurant.

Four kitchens : my life behind the burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris : a memoir / Lauren Shockey
At the French Culinary Institute, Lauren Shockey learned to salt food properly,
cook fearlessly over high heat, and knock back beers like a pro. But she also
discovered that her real culinary education wouldn't begin until she actually
worked in a restaurant. After a somewhat disappointing apprenticeship in the
French provinces, Shockey hatched a plan for her dream year: to apprentice in
four high-end restaurants around the world. She started in her hometown of New York City under the famed chef Wylie Dufresne at the molecular gastronomy hotspot wd-50, then traveled to Vietnam, Israel, and back to France.  Shockey shows us what really happens behind the scenes in haute cuisine, and includes original recipes integrating the techniques and flavors she learned along the way.  -From Publisher's Description

Nine lives : a chef's journey from chaos to control / Brandon Baltzley
At twenty-six years old, Brandon Baltzley was poised for his star turn as the
opening chef at Chicago’s hotspot Tribute. People called him a prodigy—the
Salvador Dali of cooking—and foodie blogs followed his every move. Instead,
Brandon walked away from it all and entered rehab to deal with the alcohol and cocaine addiction that had enslaved him most of his adult life.  Nine Lives serves up a raw and riveting memoir about food, rock-and-roll, and redemption.  -From Publisher's Description

Life, on the line : a chef's story of chasing greatness, facing death, and redefining the way we eat / Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas
Achatz, "one of America's great chefs" ("Vogue"), shares how his drive to cook immaculate food won him international renown--and fueled his miraculous triumph over tongue cancer. "Life, on the Line" is also a book about survival, about nurturing creativity, and about profound friendship. -From OPL Catalog Summary

Heat : an amateur's adventures as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta maker, and
apprentice to a Dante-quoting butcher in Tuscany / Bill Buford
Expanding on his James Beard Award-winning New Yorker article, Bill Buford gives us a richly evocative chronicle of his experience as “slave” to Mario Batali in the kitchen of Batali’s three-star New York restaurant, Babbo.  In a fast-paced, candid narrative, Buford describes three frenetic years of trials and errors, disappointments and triumphs, as he worked his way up the Babbo ladder from “kitchen bitch” to line cook . . . his relationship with the larger-than-life Batali, whose story he learns as their friendship grows through (and sometimes despite) kitchen encounters and after-work all-nighters . . . and his immersion in the arts of butchery in Northern Italy, of preparing game in London, and making handmade pasta at an Italian hillside trattoria. 
-From Publisher's Description

Spoon fed : how eight cooks saved my life / Kim Severson
Somewhere between the lessons her mother taught her as a child and the ones she
is now trying to teach her own daughter, Kim Severson stumbled. She lost sight
of what mattered, of who she was and who she wanted to be, and of how she wanted
to live her life. It took a series of women cooks to reteach her the life
lessons she forgot-and some she had never learned in the first place. Some as
small as a spoonful, and others so big they saved her life, the best lessons she
found were delivered in the kitchen. -From Publisher's Description

Steal the menu : a memoir of forty years in food / Raymond Sokolov
When Raymond Sokolov became food editor of The New York Times in 1971, he
began a long, memorable career as restaurant critic, food historian, and author.
Here he traces the food scene he reported on in America and abroad, from his
pathbreaking dispatches on nouvelle cuisine chefs like Paul Bocuse and Michel
Guérard in France to the rise of contemporary American food stars like Thomas
Keller and Grant Achatz, and the fruitful collision of science and cooking in
the kitchens of El Bulli in Spain, the Fat Duck outside London, and Copenhagen’s
gnarly Noma. -From Publisher's Description

Cooked : a natural history of transformation / Michael Pollan
In his newest title, Pollan makes a case for reclaiming cooking rather than relying on corporations to provide us with overly processed foods.  Pollan uses each of the four elements -- fire, water, earth, and air -- to master a recipe, a task that he accomplishes with a barbecue pit master,
a baker, a group of brewers, and a Chez Panisse trained chef.
Posted by Rebekah Eppley on 7/26, Dimond Branch
 

Comic-Con is on!

The 44th annual Comic-Con International is underway in San Diego.  The winners for the Will Eisner awards, considered the Oscars of the comics industry, will be announced today.  Nominees for titles published in 2012 are truly exceptional.

Titles with the most nominations are:

Building StoriesBuilding stories by Chris Ware with nominations for Best Graphic Album–New, Best Writer/artist, Best Coloring, Best Lettering, and Best Publication Design.

This work, made of many small books, posters and cards, and encased in a box the size of a large board game, tells the story of the residents of an apartment building in Chicago.  At times sad and at others forward-looking we peer into the lives of a single and lonely young woman, a couple, on the verge of a break-up and other inhabitants.  This work has also been honored with spots on the top ten lists of the New York Times Book Review, Time Magazine, and was named Publishers Weekly’s Best Book of the Year.

FataleFatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, nominated for Best Continuing Series, Best New Series, Best Writer, Best Penciller/Inker, and Best Cover Artist.

Fatale is the story of a mysterious and beautiful woman who has been in hiding for 80 years.  She seems ageless, perhaps immortal.  In the present day, a reporter, Nicolas Lash, is pursuing her.  In a parallel story line, a reporter in San Francisco is pursuing this same woman in the 1950s.

HawkeyeHawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja, also nominated for Best Continuing Series, Best New Series, Best Writer, Best Penciller/Inker, and Best Cover Artist.

In this on-going tale, Clint Barton, or Hawkeye as he’s known as part of the Avengers team, fights the dirtiest criminals in New York City along with his sidekick, Kate Bishop.

Find the full list of nominees (and winners, tonight) in all categories here

What are some of your favorite comics and graphic novels?  Geek out in the comments.

Posted on: July 19, 2013, by Jenera Burton, Piedmont Ave branch

 

 

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford is considered one of the best 100 best novels of all time. One reviewer called it the "finest French novel in the English language." This alludes to the complex plot, fascinating involvements and constant surprises. It recreates the difficult relations between two "perfect" Victorian couples who leisurely travel and stay at the finest European luxury gathering places.
 
While "weeding" our collection, I came across this title. I was unfamiliar with it, but the preface sounded fascinating. I thought I'd give it a try that weekend while I went up the coast to bask in the beauty of the ocean crashing on the cliffs. My weekend went totally differently than I had planned. I holed up in a bed and breakfast and read nonstop. I could not put this book down. Sometimes a classic is a classic for a reason! The story is timeless in many ways, but definitely of-and-in the Victorian upper class world.
 
Don't be misled by the title. It is not about war. This book was to be published right at the end of WWI and the publisher didn't want Ford's title, The Saddest Story Ever Told, because everyone was dealing with sadness of The Great War To End All Wars. The main character had been soldier, liked and respected by all, hence a "Good Soldier." The publisher thought the public would be more willing to pick up a book featuring such an attractive person. This was a wildly popular book when it first came out and is considered Ford's best work.
 
Ford was a fascinating character and friend of many major writers of the era, including Joseph Conrad. After you read this title you'll want more from Ford and his friends.
 
I recommended this as a title for our book club at Lakeview. Below is the update to our group after the meeting:
 
The seven of us who were there really liked the book. A couple mentioned that at times it was confusing, because the narrator would jump forward and back in time. This was something the author did intentionally and we agreed that it helped build the suspense and sense of danger around this gathering of mostly unlikable people with mostly useless lives, deceiving and mistreating and emotionally torturing each other. There was something for everyone :>
 
We briefly wondered at the hormone level of the husband who never consummated his marriage. We agreed we actually knew people like this and didn't really understand it. We could see why this book has stayed popular.
 
One member mentioned that Ford's other most popular novel, Parade's End, is now in serial form on HBO.  BBC did a mini-series of the Good Soldier, (I believe only two episodes) and it is available at Main. I watched it eagerly and found it very good, but by no means as stunning as the novel.
Oakland Public Library currently has three copies of this novel. If those copies are checked out, be sure to reserve a copy from our Link+ system. Link+ allows us to borrow books that Oakland Public Library may not have available. You just need your card number and pin number to place a hold. There are many, many copies available through Link+. Call Main or any Branch if you need help placing a Link+ hold. ,,,or call me. 510-238-7344 at Lakeview :>
 
Mary Farrell, Branch Manager, Lakeview
 

i scream SANDWICH! and Other Summer Treats

For many of us, summer brings memories of rushing to greet the ice cream truck or enjoying a dripping cone at the beach.  My favorite childhood summer treat was the ice cream sandwich, vanilla ice cream wedged between two chocolately cookies, so I was delighted to discover Jennie Schacht's new book i scream SANDWICH!

The recipes include classics such as S'mores and the Better-Than-It, Ms. Schacht's version of the famous San Francisco It's It Ice Cream Sandwich first sold at Playland at the Beach in 1928.  The author also explores flavors of the world with treats such as Latin Love, which is Dulce de Leche ice cream on Brown Butter Blondies and the My Thai, made with Kaffir Lime and Lemongrass Sorbet on Five-Spice Cookies.  Whatever your preference, there's a wide variety of recipes from which to choose.  As the author writes, "With a favorite scoop sandwiched between two edible bookends, the dessert lends itself to infinite variations."  

Ms. Schacht will be joining us as part of OPL's Reading is So Delicious Summer Reading Program.  You can meet her at the Dimond Branch this Saturday, June 29th at 1:00 PM and at the Monclair Branch on Tuesday, July 16th at 6:00 PM.  We'll even have ice cream sandwich treats to share!  

Make sure to check out these ice cream and and dessert cook books to learn how to make other tasty summer treats.

        A History of Ice Cream Making       Modern Art Desserts

 Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice, and Aguas Frescas     People's Pops     The Ciao Bella Book

Ice cream : 52 easy recipes for year-round frozen treats / Sally Sampson ; photography by Alexandra Grablewski

Of sugar and snow : a history of ice cream making / Jeri Quinzio

Modern art desserts : recipes for cakes, cookies, confections, and frozen treats based on iconic works of art / Caitlin Freeman ; photography by Clay McLachlan ; contributions from Tara Duggan; curator's notes by Janet Bishop; foreword by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Molly Moon's homemade ice cream : sweet seasonal recipes for ice creams, sorbets, and toppings made with local ingredients / Molly Moon Neitzel and Christina Spittler

Paletas : authentic recipes for Mexican ice pops, shaved ice, and aguas frescas / Fany Gerson ; photography by EdAnderson and Paul O'Hanlon

People's Pops : 55 recipes for ice pops, shave ice, and boozy pops from Brooklyn's coolest pop shop / Nathalie Jordi, David Carrell, and Joel Horowitz ; photography by Jennifer May

From milk to ice cream / Stacy Taus-Bolstad

The Ciao Bella book of gelato & sorbetto : bold, fresh flavors to make at home / F.W. Pearce and Danilo Zecchin ; recipe development & testing by Leda Scheintaub ; photographs by Iain Bagwell

Rebekah Eppley on 6/28/13, Dimond Branch

Hot Summer Street (Lit)

Moll Flanders book coverStreet Literature, a sub genre of Urban Fiction, found its beginnings with stories which were serialized in newspapers. The works of Daniel DefoeCharles Dickens and Jacob Riis are early examples of the genre.  Although many of today's stories are released by major publishing houses, contemporary Street Lit authors continue to post their stories piecemeal through websites and blogs. In case you're new to the genre, Street Lit often features inner-city and lower income characters who take extraordinary risks and become involved violent and illegal activity in a struggle to improve their circumstances or just to stay afloat.  Lest you think all Street Lit stories are uplifting tales of struggle and redemption, know that some characters make it, but many don't.  The best authors mix crime, action, and steamy situations that keep you rooting for the protagonist, even as they make terrible, life-altering decisions.  Like in a horror film, you're yelling at your favorite character "don't open that door!" or "don't go down that dark road!"
The winners for the Street Lit Book Award Medal (SLBAM) have been announced for 2012 titles. If you're a K'wan Foye fan, you'll be pleased.  He was honored in the categories of Adult Fiction and Emerging Classic for his newest release, Animal, which follows Animal (a character from his best-selling Hood Rat series) from Puerto Rico to Harlem, as he seeks to avenge the attempted murder of his lady love.  K'wan also won for Author of the year.  
Animal book coverFlip Side book coverNew Jim Crow book cover
Other winners include:
ADULT NON FICTION WINNER: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (reprint 2012)
YOUNG ADULT FICTION WINNER: On the Flip Side: A Fab Life Novel, Nikki Carter 
Is there a Street Lit title that you couldn't but down?  My guilty pleasure is Kikki Swinson, share yours in the comments.
Posted on: June 21, 2013, by Jenera Burton, Piedmont Ave  branch

The Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love by David Talbot

Hello Everyone,

Ten of us were at Lakeview to discuss The Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love by David Talbot and all liked it!
 
We started out discussing the writing style of David Talbot. Three of us mentioned it was difficult to track at times and maybe more editing could have helped that. One pointed out that most of it was based on interviews Talbot had done with participants and observers of these events. The rest thought there was no problem with the writing at all and that the book was gripping and the details based on the extensive research filled gaps we didn't know we had in our own knowledge, which was based on news or books written right at the time. We all felt we understood San Francisco better and many shared their own experiences and knowledge which expanded on the book's information. Our personal stories included antiwar events, taking a coyote to schools to talk about protecting the wilderness and experimenting with new life styles. We thought the author cared about his topics. One noted a review which mentioned frustration that Talbot did not include women's history and its forward movement at the time. Another mentioned that the 60s were a sexist time and we all agreed. I thought he did focus on a few major female leaders who arose at that time and loved the details about those lives such as Dianne Feinstein.
Topics we discussed, from the many covered by Talbot, were the loss of the Fillmore District and the reduction of the Black population in San Francisco from around 30% to 17% (partially remembered numbers on my part). Others were the saving of neighborhoods with the rise of power of the people, with a special note of the quiet and strong uprising Asian communities. Other topics were free clinics, Zodiac and Zebra murders, the charisma and corrupt power of Jim Jones...how if he were stopped when people in charge began to understand his power, that a mayoral election might be overturned, the clash of conservative blue collar Irish and Italian Catholic with the new hippie movement, the magic of the early love and Flower Power times and their disintegration into crime and repression by the city, the Patty Hearst kidnapping and the power of the press, the stories of lawyer Hallinan and his activist wife, the rise of the gay population and the start of the aides epidemic, the Harvey Milk assassination and the candlelight march of hundreds of thousands of mourning citizens and the legacy of all these events.

We wondered, "Why San Francisco?" for all these major events? We kicked around some ideas and came up with that it started with the Gold Rush in 1849 when San Francisco created itself as a wild, free place where anything goes. We mentioned the feeling people get when leaving a conservative world elsewhere and arriving in San Francisco to the freedom to be different. We discussed the many gay people who were severed from the military during World War II and the Viet Nam war and stayed, creating new lives and a new culture.

We talked of the influence of Herb Caen and The 49ers Superbowl victory on the city. Out of the upheaval of that era has come gay marriage, medical marijuana, immigration sanctuary, universal health care, recycling and renewable energy.

If you haven't read it yet, I would say that this is one you might want to put on your list. Both people who lived in San Francisco or the Bay Area at that time and people who were in other parts of the country felt they understand San Francisco better and are glad they read this modern history.

 

Happy Reading!
 
Mary
 
Mary Farrell, Lakeview Branch Manager
 

Traveling with Fiction

Each year as summer approaches I find myself thinking about vacation even if I’m not taking one.  When I do travel, I like to read fiction set in the places to which I’m traveling.  And if there’s no vacation on the horizon, I still love to get carried away with a good book set in a location I’d like to visit.    

I know many library patrons also enjoy reading fiction set in other locales. Listed below are some titles I’ve recommended to patrons and others that have been recommended to me. 

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

Into the Beautiful North

A contemporary story set in a small Mexican village.  After most of the men in her village have moved North for work, nineteen-year old Natalia, inspired by the movie, The Magnificent Seven, recruits a small group of friends to journey to the U.S. to find seven men to move to her village and protect its residents from banditos.

 

 

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese


Cutting for Stone

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. –From Publisher’s Description

  

 

The Sacred Night by Tahar Ben Jelloun

Mohammed Ahmed, a Moroccan girl raised as a boy in order to circumvent Islamic inheritance laws regarding female children, remains deeply conflicted about her identity. In a narrative that shifts in and out of reality moving between a mysterious present and a painful past, Ben Jelloun relates the events of Ahmed's adult life. Now calling herself Zahra, she renounces her role as only son and heir after her father's death and journeys through a dreamlike Moroccan landscape.  –From Publisher’s Description

The Bird Artist by Howard Norman

 The Bird Artist

Set in Witless Bay, a small fishing village in Newfoundland, at the turn of the last century this book tells the story of Fabian Vas, a bird artist and self-proclaimed murderer of the lighthouse keeper, Botho August.  Fabian reflects on his life, unraveling the story of the murder which was instigated in part by his mother’s affair with the lighthouse keeper and his parent’s attempts to keep him from marrying Margaret, the whiskey drinking love of his life.

 
Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro

Published in 1968, this is the 2009 Man Booker Prize winner's first collection of short stories.  Munro captures life in small Ontario towns and suburbs.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder

 

 

Marina Singh, a researcher at a pharmaceutical company, travels to the Amazon to locate a gynecologist, Anneck Swensen, who has been studying the reproductive lives of the women in a local tribe who are able to reproduce well after middle age. 

Mysteries by Cara Black

 

Murder in the Marais       Murder in the Latin Quarter     Murder Below Montparnasse

Mystery writer Cara Black’s books are set in various Paris neighborhoods.  I love getting lost in the Marais (Murder in the Marais) or Latin Quarter (Murder in the Latin Quarter) with this San Francisco author.  Check out her latest title, Murder Below Montparnasse.

The Book of Salt by Monique Truong

The Book of Salt

Set in 1934 Paris, this fictionalized memoir tells the story of Bihn, chef to Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein.  Bihn leaves his native Vietnam after his father learns about his affair with another man and spends several years as a sailor before making his way to Paris where he finds work in the kitchen of Stein and Toklas.  Wandering the streets of Paris, Bihn reflects on his life as a chef in Vietnam and at sea and the years he spent working as a chef for the famous writer, using the metaphor of salt.  

Black Girl in Paris by Shay Youngblood

Black Girl in Paris

 

Inspired by African-American artists such as James Baldwin and Langston Hughes, Youngblood’s protagonist leaves her southern home to follow her dream of becoming a writer in Paris.  Once there, she experiences the City as an artist's model, a poet's assistant, and an au pair before eventually coming of age as a writer.

                                                                                                                                                                             

The Tea House Fire by Ellis Avery 

 The Tea House Fire

Set in late nineteenth century Japan as the country opens its doors to the West, this novel tells the story of Aurelia, an American orphan girl who is adopted by the owners of a tea ceremony school in Japan and her relationship with Yukako, the daughter of a respected tea advisor.  This is a great read for those interested in the art of the tea ceremony.

  

 The Painting by Nina Schuyler

The Painting

Set in 1869 Japan, a young woman escapes the confines of her arranged marriage by painting memories of her lover on mulberry paper. She secretly wraps the painting around a ceramic pot that's bound for Europe. In France, a disenchanted young man works as a clerk at an import shop. When he opens the box from Japan, he discovers the brilliant watercolor of two lovers locked in an embrace under a plum tree. He steals the painting and hides it in his room. With each viewing, he sees something different, and gradually the painting transforms him. –From Publisher’s Description.
 

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being

 

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. –From Publisher’s Description                                                                                                                                                           

 The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. –From Publisher’s Description

 

The Bone People by Keri Hulme

The Bone People
Hulme’s book creates a sense of place on the harsh beaches of New Zealand.  “The novel chronicles the complicated relationships between three emotional outcasts of mixed European and Maori heritage. Kerewin Holmes is a painter and a loner, convinced that "to care for anything is to invite disaster." Her isolation is disrupted one day when a six-year-old mute boy, Simon, breaks into her house. The sole survivor of a mysterious shipwreck, Simon has been adopted by a widower Maori factory worker, Joe Gillayley, who is both tender and horribly brutal toward the boy. –From Publisher’s Description.  Although I read this book many years ago, the New Zealand landscape remains vivid in my memory.

What are some of your favorite books set in other locales?

Rebekah Eppley, Dimond Branch

In Abundance: authors explore how we got fat.

This year's Summer Reading theme: “Reading is So Delicious” got me thinking and reading about what an abundance of delicious may do to our bodies.
 
Two journalists and a doctor, all residents of the Bay Area, tackle just this subject.
 

 How the Food Giants Hooked Us  by Michael MossSalt, Sugar, Fat gives an enlightening and sometimes frightening account of the processed food industry in the United States and beyond. Moss discusses how the biggest names in Big Food once competed for "stomach-share," the amount of food a single person eats during mealtime.  Then snacking was introduced, adding a new, all-day, mealtime to the western diet. These new, heavily marketed snack foods and beverages, Moss explains, are specifically engineered to keep us coming back for more. In the days when snacking was socially discouraged, it was once thought that the amount one could eat was finite and companies had to compete, but now that stomach-share has expanded, we have expanded as well.  He goes on to tell a puzzling anecdote that, in studies at our own Oakland Children's Hospital, kids were found to be both overfed and undernourished. Moss explains that the body wants to keep eating in the hopes of getting proper nutrition, nutrition that is sorely lacking in many modern meals and snacks. 
This book reads both as the history of how we got here in terms of processed foods and as social commentary on what the future may have in store.
 
 an eater's manifesto / Michael PollanOn the cover of In Defense of Food, Pollan advises: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." He goes on to introduce the notion of "nutritionism," explaining that it’s the study of parts of food, the parts that can be extracted and isolated like vitamins, carbohydrates and proteins.  Pollan cautions that food, real food, is more than the sum of its parts and its complexities and abilities to keep us well are not yet known.  He advises us to eat food and warns that the highly processed, refined, enriched and marketed products we find in most grocery aisles, the stuff that Michel Moss describes in Salt, Sugar, Fat is not food.
 
 
Why we get fat and what to do about it / Gary TaubesBoth Moss and fellow journalist Michael Pollan offer what seems to be sound advice: eat more vegetables than meat, eat less sugar, eat less fat.  By contrast, Dr. Gary Taubes in his work Why We Get Fat And What To About It recommends eating as much as you want, so long as it’s meat and fat, and limiting carbohydrate rich foods like breads and pastas.  While Pollan subscribes to the "calories-in-calories-out" theory, basically, you're fat because you eat too much and/or don't exercise enough, Taubes turns this thinking on its head.  You are fat because you eat too many refined carbs and, by-the-way, fat doesn't make you fat.  While Pollan advocates eating, but not too much, Taubes argues that the consumption of fat in any amount is literally immaterial, thermodynamics be damned. I am totally oversimplifying both arguments, please read the books for the real scoop.  Dr. Taubes' advice is completely counterintuitive to mainstream thought on the subject, but his research appears solid.  
So what can you eat? For the super-short version, try Pollan's tiny Food Rules or the appendix of Why We Get Fat.  Pollan's and Taubes' ideas are strikingly opposed, but could they both be right? According to the Stanford study that Taubes references in his work, the answers could be yes. The research proves that caloric restriction on any of the prescribed diets leads to weight-loss and improved health.  Though the study's author, Dr. Gardener leans reservedly towards the Atkins/Taubes approach.  The video is pretty interesting if you've got the time.
 
 adventures on the alimentary canal / Mary RoachAnd since we're chatting about stuffing our faces, why not get yourself on the waiting list for this appetizing book by Oakland resident Mary Roach: Gulp : adventures on the alimentary canal. It is a snout-to-tail journey of the stuff we put into (and how it comes out of) or bodies.  Like her other books, Gulp is both humorous and eye-opening, but it ain't always pretty.
 
What books have changed your way of thinking about food?
Happy reading and eating. 
 
 
Submitted on 5/17/2013 by Jenera Burton, Piedmont Avenue branch

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in May

And the Mountains Echoed book coverAmericanah book coverA Constellation of Vital Phenomena book coverDead Ever After book coverA Delicate Truth book coverMontaro Caine book coverLittle Green book coverGood Kings Bad Kings book coverNorwegian by Night book coverKing of Cuba book cover

And the Mountains Echoed
by Khaled Hosseini
Readers around the world who loved The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns will be thrilled to get their hands on the newest book by best-selling novelist Khaled Hosseini. And the Mountains Echoed traces the intertwined stories of Afghanis in their home country and around the world in what Library Journal calls “a gorgeous tapestry of disparate characters joined by threads of blood and fate.” Booklist calls it a “vital, profound, and spellbinding saga.”

Americanah
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning novels Purple Hibiscus (2003) and Half of a Yellow Sun. Her newest novel tells the story of Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who leaves her home country and her sweetheart to study in the United States, where she faces immense difficulties. When she starts blogging her rants about the racism she observes and experiences in the U.S., she wins admiration and financial rewards, all the while struggling with the separation from her love. Library Journal calls Americanah “witty, wry, and observant” saying “Adichie is a marvelous storyteller who writes passionately about the difficulty of assimilation and the love that binds a man, a woman, and their homeland.”

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
by Anthony Marra
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena follows the lives of a child, a failed doctor and a surgeon struggling to survive in war-torn Chechnya. It received starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal and Publishers Weekly and is the number one book on the Indie Next List, a monthly list of recommendations from independent booksellers from across the country. Kirkus Reviews calls it a “somber, sensitive portrait of how lives fray and bind again in chaotic circumstances.” You can read or listen to a preview here.

Dead Ever After
by Charlaine Harris
Fans of the Sookie Stackhouse fantasy/mystery books (and their TV adaptation True Blood) take note: this is the final novel in Harris’ immensely popular series.

A Delicate Truth
by John Le Carré
Le Carré has been writing acclaimed espionage novels for almost five decades. His newest follows the cover-up of a counterterrorism effort gone wrong in Gibraltar. Reviewers have been noting the lack of moral ambiguity that characterized so many of his earlier works; Booklist describes this change as a “new, shockingly realistic kind of noir in which right-thinking individuals who challenge the institutional order of things always lose.”

Montaro Caine
by Sidney Poitier
Beloved Academy Award-winning actor Poitier is the author of this month’s most unexpected debut, a mystery and science fiction mash-up in which the CEO of a multinational mining corporation seeks the origin of a mysterious coin.  Kirkus Reviews calls Montaro Caine “a pleasant surprise, elegantly written and keenly observed.”

Little Green: An Easy Rawlins Mystery
by Walter Mosley
Fans of Easy Rawlins will be overjoyed to learn that he’s back. In Blonde Faith (2007), Easy’s life (and the series) appeared to come to an end when he drove off a cliff, but in Little Green he awakens from a coma, it is still 1967, and Easy gets back into the P.I. game. His mission is to find a missing young man last seen in a Sunset Strip Club, which immerses Easy in the unfamiliar world of L.A.’s hippie culture. Library Journal calls it a “taut tale that rises above other mysteries through its strong African American protagonist.”

Good Kings Bad Kings
by Susan Nussbaum
This year’s recipient of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, Good Kings Bad Kings takes us on a scathing and tender tour behind the scenes at the Illinois Learning and Life Skills Center, a nursing home for teenagers with disabilities. As Kirkus Reviews puts it, “Nussbaum's vivid portraits of a wide variety of ILLC residents, some of whom are mentally ill as well as physically challenged, reveal the three-dimensional humanity of people the rest of society is all too willing to neglect and ignore. Well-meaning, well-written and well-plotted, with qualified justice for some of the bad guys and hope for a few of the oppressed.” Debut novelist Nussbaum is a playwright and disability rights activist.

Norwegian by Night
by Derek B. Miller
Advanced age and the beginnings of dementia force Sheldon Horowitz to leave Manhattan and move in with his granddaughter and her husband in Oslo in a novel that Kirkus Reviews describes as “part memory novel, part police procedural, part sociopolitical tract and part existential meditation.” A hate crime prompts Horowitz to protect a young boy while he battles his fading sanity and grapples with his emotional wounds as a Korean War veteran and the loss of his son in Vietnam. Booklist asserts “no brief plot outline can do justice to a book that deserves to find a place on a few best-of-the-year lists” and compares Norwegian by Night to the works of popular Scandinavian authors Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, and Jo Nesbø.

King of Cuba
by Cristina García
In her latest novel, García imagines the life of Cuba’s aging dictator, interspersed with the rants of Goyo, an octogenarian Cuban exile in Miami who stews with hatred for the leader while he plots his assassination. Booklist calls King of Cuba “spectacularly agile, strategically surreal, wryly tender, and devilishly funny” and Publishers Weekly describes García’s writing as “laced with candor and wit as she portrays the lives of two men united by the past.” García is the author of six novels, including Dreaming in Cuban (1992) which was nominated for the National Book Award.

Are you looking forward to an upcoming new release? Tell us about it!

Posted on 3/29/2013 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library.