Around the World in 8 Books

Summer is the perfect time to travel; but, we don’t always have the means to go wherever we want. Here are eight exciting reading suggestions that have the power to take you anywhere.

The Geography of Bliss: One grump’s search for the happiest places in the world by Eric Weiner — What makes us happy? Do certain countries have happier citizens? Weiner tackles these questions and more as he travels the world and tries to unlock the science and psychology of happiness. Part humor, self-help, and a discussion of foreign affairs, this book allows readers to travel around the world and through humanity.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson– A master traveler, Bill Bryson documents hiking the Appalachian Trail in this humorous and insightful memoir. Along the journey, he examines the history and ecology of the trail, which extends from Georgia to Maine, and talks about some of the quirky personalities he met along the way. Read this classic before the movie comes out later this summer.

Kinky gazpacho: life, love & Spain by Lori L. Tharps– Born and raised in a mostly white suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Tharps was one of the few people of color. From an early age, she decided that traveling to Spain was part of her destiny, despite personally not knowing the language or the people. When she traveled there in college, she discovers her skin color makes her as much of an outsider in Spain as it does in America. The story doesn’t end there. Tharps falls in love and marries a Spaniard. Through their relationship, she rekindles her love of Spain and learns how to live with her new Spanish family.

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman — In 1986, Susan Gilman and a friend from college embark on a backpacking trip through China shortly after the country opens to independent backpackers. They quickly find themselves over the heads in their inability to navigate the culture, the terrain, and the language. One friend begins to unravel physically, while the other unravels mentally. Travel with these young women as they navigate their way through China and find their way back home.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer– After graduating college in 1991, Christopher McCandless gave away all of his money, abandoned his car and embraced a vagabond lifestyle, which culminated in his death in the Alaska wilderness. Krakauer reconstructs McCandless’s journey across America with interviews of people McCandless met in his journey. He also tries to crack the mystery of who McCandless was and why he would abandon his life and set out on, what many would consider, a foolish journey.

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes — Set out on an Italian adventure with this classic travel memoir. Mayes, a gourmet cook and travel writer, buys and renovates an abandoned villa in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. The book contains a lively description of the countryside and its people, along with delicious seasonal recipes she created in her time living there.

The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto “Che” Guevara — In January 1952, Ernesto Guevara departed from Buenos Aires, Argentina with his friend Alberto Granado. The two young men began a journey through Latin America on their motorcycles. Through their travels, they met the poor and disenfranchised of their continent, including the descendants of the once great Inca civilization. Growing up in an upper-middle class family, Guevara was blind to the struggles and social injustices these peoples faced. It is through this journey that he formed the ideology that led to him being known as “Che” Guevara.
On the trail of the ancestors: a black cowboy’s ride across America  by Lisa K. Winkler– Like many young boys, Miles Dean fell in love with the idea of being a cowboy. In September 2007,  at 57-years old, Dean decided to realize his dream by riding horseback across the country. As a school teacher in Newark, NJ, he wanted to infuse his trip with historic stops along the way. His journey began in New York City  at the African Burial Grounds in lower Manhattan and ended 6 months later at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, California. Along the way, he paid respects to many forgotten African American heroes and pioneers, such as the Tennessee’s African American Civil War Cemetery. In each state, a new pioneer or hero his highlighted. Dean’s story also highlights the practical problems he faced, such as riding a horse for 6 months straight and  taking care of health concerns for him and his horse.

If you could travel anywhere in the world and write your own memoir, where would you go and what would you do?

Read to the Rhythm: Summer Reading Fun

rhythm

On June 1, 2015, we kicked off the summer with our summer reading program for children and grown-ups. We’re excited to enjoy the sunshine and a good book or two. Here are a few books that we’re looking forward to reading this summer.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins— Billed as “the next Gone Girl,The Girl on the Train is the perfect summer psychological thriller. Rachel takes the commuter train every day, riding past the home she and her ex-husband used to share. Now he lives there with his new wife and baby.  A few doors down from, Rachel watches another happy couple and fantasizes about their life together. One day, Rachel sees the woman kissing a man that is not her husband. The next day, the woman goes missing. Rachel offers what she knows to the police and becomes intertwined in the investigation.

Ruby by Cynthia Bond— Ruby Bell is “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” but has experienced profound suffering in her small Texas town. She runs off to 1950s New York City and beings a new life. When she is forced to come back to Texas, Ruby must face her traumatic past. Ruby is a story of passion, courage, and loyalty.  Ruby is also the newest Oprah Book Club selection.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah— Fans of All the Light We Cannot See will also love this great book set in France during World War II.  Vianne and Isabelle are sisters that are only united for the love they have for each other. Vianne lives in the country while Isabelle lives in Paris.  Vianne must say good-bye to her husband as he goes off to fight in the War, leaving her and her daughter vulnerable when German soldiers decide to quarter in her home. Meanwhile, Isabelle is young and in love in Paris. When her relationship turns sour, she joins the resistance. The Nightingale tells the heartbreaking story of two sisters that are united in love for each other and in their strength in fighting for what’s right.

Dead Wake: the last crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson—On May 1, 1915, the Lusitania set sail out of New York City toward Liverpool, England. It was 10 months into WWI, and everyone on the ship was at ease, even though Germany already declared the Atlantic a war zone. The Lusitania was a “greyhound of the sea,” carrying 1,962 passengers, including a record amount of children and infants. On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat. Larson crafts a compelling narrative surrounding the sinking of the Lusitania from multiple perspectives.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James—On December 3, 1976, seven gunman stormed Bob Marley’s house in an assassination attempt. Marley and several others were left wounded but alive. Not much is known about the gunman and their fate. James examines this dangerous time in Jamaican history, crafting memorable and compelling characters. Jamaica’s turbulent past is recounted through many unique voices.

Us: a novel by David Nicholls—Connie and Doug couldn’t be more different. Regardless, they fell in love and built a life together. After more than 20 years of marriage, Connie tells Doug she thinks she wants a divorce. Before her decision is final, she agrees to go on one last vacation with Doug and their son, Albie: a tour of Europe. Doug is convinced that the trip will help fix their family problems; but, is it too late?

Song of the Shank : a novel  by Jeffery Renard Allen – Tom Wiggins, or “Blind Tom,” was born a slave and became known as a musical prodigy. This work blends history and a little fantasy to tell the struggles and transformation of a former slave to the first African American to perform at the White House.  After almost a decade of research, Allen crafted a complex, enthralling story that will give readers a profound understanding of the inhumanity of slavery and 19th-century racial attitudes.

To join in on the summer reading fun, stop by the Fiction desk on the 2nd floor. Sign up and start reading to win books and be entered into drawings for some great prizes, including an Amazon Kindle Fire and Beats by Dre headphones. What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Memorial Day 2015


Memorial Day

Memorial Day is close upon us. For many, this day signifies the start of summer; but it’s much more than that. It’s a special day to remember all the members of the armed forces that have served and died for our country. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

This Memorial Day marks the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. The city of Southfield will commemorate Memorial Day on Friday, May 22 at 9 a.m. on the front steps of Southfield City Hall, 26000 Evergreen Road. For more information, please click on this link: https://www.cityofsouthfield.com/NewsEvents/tabid/158/mid/1480/newsid1480/1825/City-of-Southfield-commemorates-Memorial-Day-Friday-May-22/Default.aspx

To honor our veterans, the Southfield Library has prepared a list of books from our collection to highlight the courageous and admirable men and women who served and died for freedom:

Freedom flyers : the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II  by J. Todd Moye.  Formally known as the 332rd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Troop, the Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American military pilots. They bravely fought during WWII despite the personal racial discrimination they faced from Jim Crow laws. Moye’s book draws together more than 800 interviews of these former pilots.  Read about the triumphs and challenges of these great men in their own words.

American Sniper by Chris Kyle.  Read the autobiography that inspired the Academy Award Nominated Film. SEALS Chief Christopher Kyle is the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, with over 150 recorded kills. He served four tours in the Iraq War and was awarded several commendations for his service and heroism. Kyle died in 2013 in Texas, when he was shot and killed by a friend.

Firebrand of liberty : the story of two Black regiments that changed the course of the Civil War by Stephen V. Ash.  This book tells the story of two African American Union regiments that helped change American history. In March 1983, nine hundred African American soldiers invaded Florida and captured Jacksonville. Their bravery led to the freedom of thousands of slaves. Ash uses near-forgotten primary sources to create a vivid re-telling of these men’s struggles so they will not be forgotten.

Side-by-side: a photographic history of American women in war by Vickie Lewis. Check out this great photo album of the brave women who broke barriers and fought for our country. Read their inspirational stories that range from participation in the Revolutionary War to Operation Desert Storm. This book shares the narratives and photographs of women from all of the armed forces as they share their experiences and perspectives.

Navajo weapon : the Navajo code talkers  by Sally McClain. The Navajo language is difficult to translate. This made it an ideal language for communicating intelligence information quickly and accurately during the war.  This book uses firsthand accounts and Marine Corps documentation to tell the story of how Navajo Marines worked together to create a “code within a code” that the Japanese were never able to break.

We were there: voices of African American veterans from World War II to the war in Iraq by Yvonne Latty.  Latty was inspired to uncover the untold stories of African American soldiers. Interviewing veterans from World War II to the Iraq war, she uncovers a myriad of experiences from generals to prisoners of war. These twelve stories are of ordinary African American men and women who served in extraordinary ways.

The fighting rabbis : Jewish military chaplains and American history by  Albert Isaac Slomovitz. American Jews are not usually associated with warfare. Nor, for that matter, are their rabbis. And yet, Jewish chaplains have played a significant and sometimes heroic role in our nation’s defense. Slomovitz presents the compelling history of Jewish military chaplains and their service during various wars and operations. Also striking are original documents which chronicle the ongoing care and concern by the Jewish community over the last 140 years for their follow Jews, including many new immigrants who entered the armed forces.

National Poetry Month 2015

April is National Poetry Month and there’s still time to celebrate.  Here’s a few staff favorites we’re sure you’ll enjoy.

Collected Poems  of e.e. cummings  An eminent voice in 20th century literature, e.e. cummings wrote  over 2,000 poems in his career. He wrote poetry in many styles such as sonnets, acrostic, free verse, and blues. He is well-known for experimenting with punctuation and sentence structure.  Since he was also a painter, he often wanted to “paint a picture” with his words.

Love: ten poems by Pablo Neruda Neruda gained notoriety as a poet in his teenage years. While he wrote many styles of poems, he is well-known for his passionate love poems.  He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

The world will follow joy by Alice Walker Even though Walker is known for her iconic novel The Color Purple, she began by writing poetry. Her works focus on the struggles of racism and sexism. Walker’s writing emphasizes her other role as a human rights activist. She has won many awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Color Purple.

Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins Collins is one of the most popular poets in America today because of his accessible style of writing. His poems are witty and quirky, but often turn into something profound by the last verse. He served two terms as the United States Poet Laureate from 2001-2006.

Best American Poetry Are you new to poetry and you don’t know where to start? Check out a copy of the Best American Poetry. Every year they compile a list of the newest poems from the best poets writing in a variety of styles. Maybe you’ll find your next favorite poem or poet.

Delights and shadows by Ted Kooser Like Collins, Kooser is another of the more famous, accessible poets writing today. In his writing, he draws inspiration from the beauty of everyday life and observations. He has served as Poet Laureate of the United States and received the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Delights and Shadows.

The Rose that Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur  After his death, this collection of his poetry was published. This collection delves even further into this iconic rapper and poet’s innermost world, revealing a message of hope.

Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson  Dickinson lived a simple ordinary life. It was not until after her death that her poems were found and published. Many of her poems emphasize the metaphysical in the ordinary. Above all, her poetry is wonderfully human.

For these and other great books of poetry, check out the third floor of the Southfield Public Library. For more information about National Poetry month or for names of other great poets, check out Poets.org. What’s your favorite poem/poet?

Fairy Tales for Grown-ups

Spring is a wonderful season.  After a long, dreary winter, the world is new and magical again. As we enjoy the spring season, our thoughts turn to  fairy tales. Here’s a short list of fantastical stories written for adults to bring some magic to your life.

The big over easy by Jasper Fforde  Follow Detective Jack Spratt and his partner, Sergeant Mary Mary, of the Nursery Crime Division, as they investigate the death of Humpty Dumpty. Half mystery and half fantasy, Fforde’s nursery crime books incorporate familiar fairy tale characters into funny stories of mystery and intrigue. The next book in the series, The fourth bear, is a mystery involving Goldilocks, the three bears, and a maniacal gingerbread man.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman  Gaiman is the master of the modern myth. This novel smartly blends fantasy, Americana, and myth into a story that examines the American culture. According to the story, gods and mythological creatures only exist because we believe in them.  As people immigrated to America, they brought the gods of their home countries with them. American culture is changing and the old gods are disappearing to make room for the “new” gods, such as media, technology and celebrity. Join the main character, Shadow, on his fantastical road trip across the country as he helps rally the gods of the past to fight the new American gods.  For more great books by Gaiman, check out The ocean at the end of the lane, Fragile thingsAnansi Boys, Stardust,  or Neverwhere.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman What’s a fairy tale list without a little romance? Read the timeless story that inspired the classic movie. The beautiful Buttercup lives in the country and one day falls in love with a farm hand, Wesley. When Wesley goes off to find his fortune so the two can be married, his ship is taken over by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Buttercup abandons hope that Wesley will return to her; but, is their love story over?

The snow child: a novel  by Eowyn Ivey  Jack and Mabel are desperate for a child. One day, they find a young girl wandering around the woods by their home in the Alaskan wilderness. They take the little girl in. As the couple takes care of the girl and falls in love with her, what they learn will change their lives forever.

Confessions of an ugly stepsister by Gregory Maguire  In this beautiful re-imagining of the Cinderella story, Iris, her mother, and her sister,  are cast from their home in England and are forced to take refuge in the Netherlands. Iris’s mother tries to improve her family’s station and marries a painter. As the story begins to transform  into the classic Cinderella story we all know, characters and their motivations are re-examined to tell a sympathetic tale. For more great stories, check out Wicked, the book that inspired the Broadway musical and the rest of the books about the Wicked years (Son of a Witch, A lion among men, and Out of Oz) .

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern In Victorian England, a mysterious circus travels from town-to-town. No one knows when it will arrive. The black and white tent opens at sunset and closes at sunrise before moving onto the next town.  Within this beautiful, mysterious circus, two young magicians, Marco and Celia, are raised to be masters of their craft.  The two fall in love, beginning a series of events that will leave the circus performers and patrons in the balance.

Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi  Mr. Fox is a writer with a problem: he can’t stop killing off the heroines in his stories. One day his muse, Mary, comes to life and confronts him for his creative choices.  Fantasy, reality, literature, and love are all examined in this inventive novel.  For other whimsical stories by Oyememi, try  Boy, snow, bird : a novel , White is for witching, and The Icarus girl.

Now that you have a magical story to read, enjoy it outside or in your garden. Be sure to keep an eye open for fairies!

Everything Irish

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner and we’re excited to celebrate all things Irish. From food to fiction, here are 7 great books to make you feel a little more Irish.

Kevin Dundon’s modern Irish food : more than 100 recipes for easy comfort food by Kevin Dundon This book contains great traditional Irish recipes as well as twists on old favorites.  Dundon offers a variety of recipes that are perfect for a family dinner or a quick-lunch. With this book, you’ll be ready for an Irish celebration of any size.

In search of Ireland’s heroes : the story of the Irish from the English invasion to the present day by Carmel McCaffrey This book provides a great overview of Irish history. Well-researched and written, it’s great for anyone who wants to learn a little more of the country’s rich history and its struggle to independence.

Ireland Eyewitness Travel Whether you’re planning a trip to Ireland or only traveling using your imagination, this book provides beautiful pictures and descriptions of the Emerald Isle. From touring castles in the countryside to visiting the Guinness factory, this guide will lead you to the most interesting places and events Ireland has to offer.

St. Patrick of Ireland : a biography by  Philip Freeman Have you ever wondered about the real St. Patrick? Check out this great book about the life and legacy of the saint that inspired the holiday we know today. This book is packed with historical information but easy for anyone to read.

In the Woods by Tana French French is a master of Irish mystery. In the Woods is the first book in her series, the Dublin Murder Squad. As a child, Rob Ryan is the lone survivor of a terrible murder that takes place in nearby woods.  Twenty years later, Ryan is a detective and finds himself investigating an eerily similar murder in the same woods. Can Ryan uncover the key to the murders of the past and present?

The Book of Lost Things by John Connelly After the death of his mother, twelve-year-old David takes comfort in his imagination and books. Reality and fantasy mix together to create an enduring coming of age tale by a contemporary Irish author.

A Long Long Way by Sebastian Berry  Willie Dunne leaves his family and girlfriend in  Dublin  to fight with the Allied Forces in World War I. While he’s away, political tensions are growing back home.  This vivid and honest book gives insight into the struggle of war and wonders if it’s possible to go home again.

Stop by the Southfield Public Library for these and other great books about Irish life and heritage.

Stranded on a Desert Island

island

February is winding down, and it is freezing cold! If you’re like us, dear reader, you might be thinking about escaping from the mountains of snow that are covering everything right now. Suddenly, situations that wouldn’t normally be appealing are starting to look a little better, like being stranded on a desert island! Just think, you might have to scavenge for food, build a shelter, and find a clever way to make fire, but at least you won’t have to shovel for an hour just to get to work on time! Suppose you were stuck on a desert island right now. Since this is escapism, maybe it isn’t such a dire situation. Maybe food and shelter washed up on the beach, so you can just relax and enjoy the alone time in a climate where it’s sunny and 78. Maybe a box of books washed up on the beach also, which ones would you like to find when you opened it? You’ve got all the time in the world now, and it’s such a nice day…

The old favorites

A lot of the SPL staff were hoping to find some personal favorite books in their desert island book box. Something they loved, and can enjoy again for the second (or third, or fourth) time. Some of these favorite titles include:

The Catcher in the Rye – by J.D. Salinger

Ishmael – by Daniel Quinn

The Stand – by Steven King

Summer Sisters – by Judy Blume

Life Expectancy – by Dean Koontz

Harry Potter – by J.K. Rowling

The Dragonlance Chronicles – by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Time Enough at Last

Some of our staff members thought about the books that they have always wanted to read, but just haven’t had the chance to do it yet. Whether the book is very long, or very complex, if you are stuck on a desert island then you don’t have to worry about it! Some of the books we would tackle are:

Don Quixote – by Miguel de Cervantes

The Brothers Karamazov – by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Shogun – by James Clavell

The complete works of William Shakespeare

The Dune series – by Frank Herbert

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant – by Stephen R. Donaldson

Those books should last us a good long time. Hopefully by the time we’re done, a rescue ship will have found us. Until then, what would you be reading if you were laying on a warm sunny beach with all the time in the world?