If you’re staying in this week here are some ways you can use the library from home!
Howe Library cardholders can sign up and start streaming films instantly (up to 8 a month). Films can be streamed from any computer, television, mobile device or platform by downloading the Kanopy app for iOS, Android, AppleTV, Chromecast or Roku.
Despite the seemingly insurmountable odds—poaching, habitat destruction, pollution, human overpopulation, and global climate change—the panda is making a comeback. How? By humans teaching baby pandas how to be wild and stay wild.
Uplifting, inspiring and gorgeously illustrated, HerStory conveys the stories of fifty inspiring and powerful women from around the world. Each descriptions of their childhood, the obstacles they faced, and the impact of their achievements is brought to life, presented in a concise and visually appealing way.
I love funny books, but only if there’s substance behind the funny. Here are a few authors that, I think, succeeded in this difficult venture.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal – This novel is formatted as a collection of linked short stories (think Olive Kitteridge or A Visit From the Goon Squad) with one character connecting them all: Eva Thorvald, a food protege who becomes a star chef behind a super chic and exclusive dinner club. This book is a hilarious look at foodie culture (with some excellent audio book actors, if you choose to go that route) but at the same time has a lot of heart, taking a look at motherhood, love and loss.
Less by Andrew Sean GreerFinally – a Pulitzer Prize-winning book that’s funny!Less is hilarious in the same way that Bridget Jones’s Diary is. Terrible things happen to protagonist Arthur Less, but they’re terrible in the way that it’s terrible Bridget Jones lands in a pig sty while skydiving. There’s a lightness in the style of the writing, but at the same time, the book’s themes are heavy, about love, loss, growing up and growing old.
Baby You’re Gonna Be Mine by Kevin WilsonGenerally, short stories are not my favorite form of fiction; I often find they’re too dark, too dense and too serious, like the writer is trying really, really hard to be “literary.” But I love this collection, which contains a lot of adults acting like children (which, for me, is always funny) and stories that are so interesting conceptually. My favorite is “Wildfire Johnny,” which is kind of like a dark comedy that ends in a very resonating place.
You like poetry. But don’t spend that much time with it. You know Frost. You know Whitman. Maybe you know Mary Oliver, or Billy Collins. If you’d like to spend a little more time with it, here are some contemporary poets we think are worth knowing.
Ada Limon writes poems grounded in our world that contain an intimate vulnerability. Her poetry lays bare her love, fear, anger, and happiness in language that feels like someone confiding in an old friend. In each poem the author explores her life with you, asking for your trust. She’s been the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and a finalist for the National Book Award. Her latest is The Carrying: Poems.
Tracy K. Smith‘s poems contain a serenity and elegance about profound, and sometimes difficult topics. They have a lyrical beauty on their surfaces, but underneath is the vast weight of history, both political, and personal. She’s less a lecturer and more of a revealer, pulling back the curtain, inviting us to inhabit the lives of others. She is a former U.S. poet laureate, and host of The Slowdown, a daily poetry podcast, and of winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Her latest is Wade in the Water: Poems.
Ted Kooser crafts poems full of tender moments in clean, simple compositions that draw attention to those small, uncategorized experiences in life that we often forget. Kooser accumulates these objects, feelings, and scenes with a soft, casual tone, producing poems of deep sincerity. And while many of the poems illustrate the mundane, the everyday, the unremarkable, Kooser is able to tease out the nostalgia, warmth, empathy, and reminiscences of things in life we rarely stop to ponder. He is a former U.S. poet laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. His latest is Kindest Regards: New and Selected Poems.
Baghdad, 1928. The explorer and writer, Gertrude Bell, died of a presumed overdose in the city of Ur. But did she really take her own life, or was she killed? A letter has recently surfaced in which Bell expressed the fear that her life was in danger. At the request of her friend at the British Intelligence Service, Agatha Christie travels to Ur to investigate. When she arrives, she discovers a group gathered at the archaeological dig whose secrets and motives rival those of Christie’s own characters. There is, indeed, a killer in the camp, and Agatha must race to discover the culprit even as more violence takes place.
London, 1937. Best selling writer and playwright, Josephine Tey, is in London to supervise a BBC production of her play, Queen of Scots. When one of the BBC’s best-known broadcasters is murdered, Josephine’s friend, Detective Chief Inspector, Archie Penrose, asks her to help with the investigation. Shortly thereafter, another murder occurs, and this time the victim is the lead in Josephine’s play, and the mistress of the dead broadcaster. With Archie’s attention taken up by another case, Josephine works to determine if adultery and jealousy led to the murders, or if there are older, more complex motives at work.
Our world is largely digital and it moves fast. There is a recent crop of books on the beauty and power of slowing down and working with one’s hands. One of these is Slow Tech by the British archaeologist and historian Peter Ginn. “Forge-Carve-Weave-Mould-Ignite” emblazon the cover as a sampling of the fundamental technologies he explores. The book is structured around materials, with sections devoted to Fire, Earth, Wood, Stone, and Water. Most of the projects are given 2-4 heavily illustrated pages. These mini-chapters include “The art of smithing,” “Smelting,” “Make a Coil Pot,” “Wattle and Daub,” “Make a loom and weave cloth,” “Distil scented oil,” and “Steam-powered toy boat.” I have put none of these projects to the test for clarity of explanation or efficacy of instruction, but browsing the book is a pleasure in its own right. It makes one hungry to do something with one’s hands.
This book on working with the hands was born directly of the digital world. The Australian John Plant became a YouTube star with his Primitive Technology channel, which has 10 million subscribers and an average of 5 million views per video. Unlike Slow Tech it is geared specifically to wilderness survival with the most primitive of tools. Chapters are structured around neither technologies (forge, carve, weave) nor materials (fire, earth, wood), but around the necessities of life: Heat, Hunt, Clothing, Shelter, and Basic and Advanced Toolkits. Illustrations include both drawings and photographs. Having watched a handful of Plant’s videos, I found it hard to see them reduced to a handful of photographs. The book is a smaller format than Slow Tech and not as lavishly illustrated. But it remains a fascinating window onto the rudiments of turning just about nothing into the minimal tools and materials necessary to survive in the wilderness.
Despite an unhealthy proliferation of subtitles, this is a charming little book on the pleasures of whittling. One of the oldest forms of self-amusement with the hands, whittling requires nothing but a stick and a sharp knife. The book begins with a guide to swiss army knives, both a brief historical overview and selection of knife exotica (the Swiss Champ XAVT has 118 implements), and a guide to choosing a more practical knife for one’s own use. The rest of the book consists of projects to be carved from sticks and twigs: crochet hooks, alligators, hens, jewelry trees, and bristly-tailed squirrels. It’s a practical little guide, with none of the deep romanticism of the other two books. They are built on a yearning for what is fundamental in human life. This teaches you how to make a chicken from a branch. It is diverting and fun and probably a great occasional alternative to Netflix.
This graphic novel was first serialized in the form of a webcomic in 2010. The story is set in 2009 in Iran following the contentious national elections that took place there. Medhi, a student activist, goes missing after the demonstrations that followed the election. Medhi’s mother and brother, along with friends, initiate an epic mission to find him, knowing very well that he could be seriously injured or even dead. This graphic novel highlights the power of individual perseverance, especially in the character of the protestor’s mother, who will stop at nothing to find her son. This book is not for the faint of heart as there are some gruesome moments that call for reader caution. However, such moments highlight the unjust political atmosphere in which the characters live. Some reviewers have praised this work, comparing it to the illustrious Maus books by graphic novel genius, Art Spiegelman.
This engrossing graphic novel caught my attention with its rigorous, stark, expressionistic illustrations, as well as its touching story that describes a family desperately searching for a cure for their epileptic child. The book is a complicated work that deals with themes as diverse as contemporary French history, to holistic medical remedies, to the psychological dynamics of sibling relationships. The artwork is rendered in a frantic, symbolic way that takes the reader to the haunting atmosphere of David B.’s emotions (which at first glance seem to mimic a type of madness) as he struggles to comprehend the pain that his brother endures daily. The story of the family caring for the epileptic, and the author’s hardships as both friend and caregiver, carry the reader through a dreamlike, hallucinatory visual world. If a reader chooses to explore the works of David B., they should think about starting with this autobiographical piece before checking-out any of his more abstract and fictional titles, such as Incidents in the Night and Black Paths.