Archive for March, 2012

Titanic Tales – The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

Friday, March 30th, 2012

  Lots of books are being released or re-released to mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster.  You will find suggested reading lists on our New Releases and Booklists webpage.

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott (Find in our catalog) is a recent novel that is garnering a lot of media attention.  The author was profiled in the NYT prior to the book’s release in February.  The book was reviewed by Carolyn See in The Washington Post and was recently featured as an adult book for teens in SLJ.  The book jacket calls the novel, “A vivid, romantic, and compelling historical novel about a spirited young woman who survives the sinking of the Titanic only to find herself embroiled in the tumultuous aftermath of that great tragedy.”

Seamstress Tess Collins is a last-minute passenger on the Titanic, standing in for the maid of renowned designer Lucile Duff Gordon.  Early in the book the ship hits the iceberg and the story of the survivors is dealt with swiftly.  Most of the novel takes place in New York, when a senator who wants to prove negligence on the part of the White Star line begins an investigation.  New York Times reporter Sarah “Pinky” Wade, however, wants to write a story pitting the wealthy and privileged vs. the poor. and vilifies Lucile, Tess’s employer.  What will happen to Tess if the woman she was hoping would help her achieve her ambitions is discredited by her behavior in the disaster? Yet another element of the story unfolds as two very disparate men fall in love with Tess: a young sailor and an older businessman. How does Tess feel about these two men? Will either of them help her fulfill her dreams?


Pursuit of Happiness – Self-help Books

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

  Awakening Joy : 10 steps that will put you on the road to real happiness by Baraz & Alexander (Find in our catalog)

Summary: “Joy is not for just the lucky few–it’s a choice anyone can make. In this groundbreaking book, based on his popular course, James Baraz helps you discover a path to the happiness that’s right in front of you, offering a step-by-step program that will reorient your mind away from dissatisfaction and distraction and toward the contentment and delight that is abundantly available in our everyday lives. You can decide to be happy. For years, James Baraz’s online Awakening Joy course has offered participants from around the world the benefits of this simple but profoundly radical proposition. Grounded in simple Buddhist principles but accessible to people of all faiths–or no faith at all–this concept provides the jumping-off point for a transformational journey toward a richer, more meaningful, more positive outlook on life…”

  How to Train a Wild Elephant : and other adventures in mindfulness by Jan Chozen Bays (Find in our catalog)

Summary: “Amid the current spate of books on mindfulness, Bays’s distinguishes itself with 53 simple practices tested through 20 years at the Great Vow Zen Monastery in Oregon. A pediatrician as well as the center’s abbess, Bays (Mindful Eating) has found “one reliable remedy for the relief of recurrent discomfort and unhappiness…. It is regular mindfulness practice.” Bays, a student of Maezumi Roshi and Shodo Harada Roshi, brings gentle compassion to the task of integrating mindfulness into a busy life. Practices include leaving no trace, eliminating filler words, waiting, mindful driving, saying yes, silly walking, and noticing dislike. Each practice includes reminder tips, “discoveries” members of her community have made, and “deeper lessons” that might be drawn. The introduction clearly defines mindfulness and outlines its benefits in calming the mind that habitually dwells in the past, anticipates the unknown future, or creates fantasies. Bays’s insights are frequently astute. This encouraging book serves as a guide for incorporating mindfulness into the most mundane of daily activities in the spirit of Zen.” (July) (c) Copyright PW, LLC. All rights reserved.

  I Can Make You Happy by Paul McKenna (Find in our catalog)

Summary: “Whether you are sad, bored, depressed, or already content–Paul McKenna can help you become a lot happier right now! Scientific research reveals that our levels of happiness aren’t fixed: we can change them through our thoughts and actions. Dr. McKenna has spent the last 25 years developing a system that will have an immediate, measurable impact on people’s emotional well-being. The book uses the latest, most powerful psychological techniques and a hypnosis CD to help the reader feel really good right now! Best of all, you don’t need to believe in McKenna’s system: Happiness is not an article of faith or a matter of luck–it is created by particular ways of thinking and acting. If you want to experience greater joy than ever before, use this book, take control of your life and increase your happiness today”– Provided by publisher.

  The Happiness Project : or why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun by Gretchen Rubin (Find in our catalog)

Summary: “Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project. In this lively and compelling account of that year, Rubin carves out her place alongside the authors of bestselling memoirs such as Julie and Julia, The Year of Living Biblically, and Eat, Pray, Love. With humor and insight, she chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Rubin didn’t have the option to uproot herself, nor did she really want to; instead she focused on improving her life as it was. Each month she tackled a new set of resolutions: give proofs of love, ask for help, find more fun, keep a gratitude notebook, forget about results. She immersed herself in principles set forth by all manner of experts, from Epicurus to Thoreau to Oprah to Martin Seligman to the Dalai Lama to see what worked for her-and what didn’t. Her conclusions are sometimes surprising-she finds that money can buy happiness, when spent wisely; that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that “treating” yourself can make you feel worse; that venting bad feelings doesn’t relieve them; that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference-and they range from the practical to the profound. Written with charm and wit, The Happiness Project is illuminating yet entertaining, thought-provoking yet compulsively readable. Gretchen Rubin’s passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading just a few chapters of this book will inspire you to start your own happiness project.”

  Flourish : a visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being by Martin E. P. Seligman (Find in our catalog)

Summary: “Explains the four pillars of well-being–meaning and purpose, positive emotions, relationships, and accomplishment–placing emphasis on meaning and purpose as the most important for achieving a life of fulfillment.”

  Spntaneous Happiness by Andrew Weil (Find in our catalog)

Summary: “Everyone wants to be happy. But what does that really mean? Increasingly, scientific evidence shows us that true satisfaction and well-being come only from within. Dr. Andrew Weil has proven that the best way to maintain optimum physical health is to draw on both conventional and alternative medicine. Now, in Spontaneous Happiness, he gives us the foundation for attaining and sustaining optimum emotional health. Rooted in Dr. Weil’s pioneering work in integrative medicine, the book suggests a reinterpretation of the notion of happiness, discusses the limitations of the biomedical model in treating depression, and elaborates on the inseparability of body and mind. Dr. Weil offers an array of scientifically proven strategies from Eastern and Western psychology to counteract low mood and enhance contentment, comfort, resilience, serenity, and emotional balance. Drawn from psychotherapy, mindfulness training, Buddhist psychology, nutritional science, and more, these strategies include body-oriented therapies to support emotional wellness, techniques for managing stress and anxiety and changing mental habits that keep us stuck in negative patterns, and advice on developing a spiritual dimension in our lives. Lastly, Dr. Weil presents an eight-week program that can be customized according to specific needs, with short- and long-term advice on nutrition, exercise, supplements, environment, lifestyle, and much more. Whether you are struggling with depression or simply want to feel happier, Dr. Weil’s revolutionary approach will shift the paradigm of emotional health and help you achieve greater contentment in your life.”


The Warmth of Other Suns: the Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

  Since Harford County Public Library will be hosting the Smithsonian exhibit: Journey Stories in May, I thought it might be fun to read something about immigration. I was drawn to The Warmth of Other Suns (Find in our catalog)by Isabel Wilkerson because it was a part of history that happened during my lifetime (some of it anyway), yet I knew little about it. Wilkerson writes about the migration of African Americans from the Jim Crow South to cities North and West between 1915 and 1970. This movement of about six million people changed the face of the country: its politics, suburban growth, culture and economics.

Wilkerson uses three real people to demonstrate aspects of what this migration was like: Ida Mae Gladney who left Mississippi for Chicago in 1937; George Starling, who went from the Florida citrus groves to Harlem in 1945; and Dr. Robert Pershing Foster, who left for California from Louisiana in 1953. Dr. Foster’s story of his trip to California in a new Cadillac had a dramatic impact on me. During the trip, there was no place he could stay overnight because of his race. My husband’s family told similar stories about being turned away from motels at about the same time because they were Jewish.

I also found George Starling’s account fascinating because it talks about how labor shortages during the Wars started the movement North and gave African Americans a taste of economic power. It was this power struggle that almost got George Starling lynched and forced his move to New York.

And, Ida Mae, like many others, sought out others from her home town who had already moved north. Wilkerson even identifies some strange partner cities including my hometown of Syracuse, N.Y, which apparently had a lot of immigrants from Palestine, Texas.

Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson conducted countless hours of interviews and research for this book. The book is compellingly written and medium to fast-paced. I highly recommend this for people who are interested in history, personal accounts or the modern struggle of African Americans.

Posted by Linda Z.

Reinventing the World

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

  A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos by Dava Sobel (Find in our catalog)

Summary in our catalog: “By 1514, the reclusive cleric Nicolaus Copernicus had written and hand-copied an initial outline of his heliocentric theory-in which he defied common sense and received wisdom to place the sun, not the earth, at the center of our universe, and set the earth spinning among the other planets. Over the next two decades, Copernicus expanded his theory through hundreds of observations, while compiling in secret a book-length manuscript that tantalized mathematicians and scientists throughout Europe. For fear of ridicule, he refused to publish. In 1539, a young German mathematician, Georg Joachim Rheticus, drawn by rumors of a revolution to rival the religious upheaval of Martin Luther’s Reformation, traveled to Poland to seek out Copernicus. Two years later, the Protestant youth took leave of his aging Catholic mentor and arranged to have Copernicus’s manuscript published, in 1543, as De revolutionibus orbium coelestium ( On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres )-the book that forever changed humankind’s place in the universe. In her elegant, compelling style, Dava Sobel chronicles, as nobody has, the conflicting personalities and extraordinary discoveries that shaped the Copernican Revolution. At the heart of the book is her play And the Sun Stood Still , imagining Rheticus’s struggle to convince Copernicus to let his manuscript see the light of day. As she achieved with her bestsellers Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter, Sobel expands the bounds of narration, giving us an unforgettable portrait of scientific achievement, and of the ever-present tensions between science and faith.”

  The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt (Find in our catalog)

Summary: “In this book the author transports readers to the dawn of the Renaissance and chronicles the life of an intrepid book lover who rescued the Roman philosophical text On the Nature of Things from certain oblivion. In this work he has crafted both a work of history and a story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it. Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius, a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions. The copying and translation of this ancient book, the greatest discovery of the greatest book-hunter of his age, fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare and even Thomas Jefferson.”

  Da Vinci’s Ghost : genius, obsession, and how Leonardo created the world in his own image by Toby Lester (Find in our catalog)

Summary: “Journalist and storyteller Toby Lester brings Vitruvian Man to life, resurrecting the ghost of an unknown Leonardo. Populated by a colorful cast of characters, including Brunelleschi of the famous Dome, “Da Vinci’s Ghost” opens up a surprising window onto the artist and philosopher himself and the tumultuous intellectual and cultural transformations he bridged.”

  Brunelleschi’s Dome : how a Renaissance genius reinvented architecture by Ross King (Find in our catalog)

Summary: “Anyone alive in Florence on August 19, 1418, would have understood the significance of the competition announced that day concerning the city’s magnificent new cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, already under construction for more than a century. “Whoever desires to make any model or design for the vaulting of the main Dome…shall do so before the end of the month of September.” The proposed dome was regarded far and wide as all but impossible to build: not only would it be enormous, but its original and sacrosanct design eschewed (shunned) the flying buttresses that supported cathedrals all over Europe. The dome would literally need to be erected over thin air. Of the many plans submitted, one stood out–a daring and unorthodox solution to vaulting what is still the largest dome (143 feet in diameter) in the world. It was offered not by a master mason or carpenter, but by a goldsmith and clock maker named Filippo Brunelleschi, then 41, who would dedicate the next 28 years to solving the puzzles of the dome’s construction. In the process, he did nothing less than reinvent the field of architecture. Brunelleschi’s Domeis the story of how a Renaissance genius bent men, materials, and the very forces of nature to build an architectural wonder we continue to marvel at today. Denounced at first as a madman, Brunelleschi was celebrated at the end as a genius. He engineered the perfect placement of brick and stone, built ingenious hoists and cranes (some among the most renowned machines of the Renaissance) to carry an estimated 70 million pounds hundreds of feet into the air, and designed the workers’ platforms and routines so carefully that only one man died during the decades of construction–all the while defying those who said the dome would surely collapse and personal obstacles that at times threatened to overwhelm him. This drama was played out amidst plagues, wars, political feuds, and the intellectual ferments of Renaissance Florence–events Ross King weaves into the story to great effect, from Brunelleschi’s bitter, ongoing rivalry with the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti to the near capture of Florence by the Duke of Milan. King also offers a wealth of fascinating detail that opens windows onto fifteenth-century life: the celebrated traditions of the brickmaker’s art, the daily routine of the artisans laboring hundreds of feet above the ground as the dome grew ever higher, the problems of transportation, the power of the guilds. Even today, in an age of soaring skyscrapers, the cathedral dome of Santa Maria del Fiore retains a rare power to astonish. In telling the story of the greatest engineering puzzle of the Renaissance and one of the world’s architectural marvels, Ross King brings its creation to life in a fifteenth-century chronicle with twenty-first-century resonance.”


Stalker in the Shadows by Camy Tang

Monday, March 26th, 2012

  (Find this book in our catalog)  Nurse Monica Grant has a passion – her desire to help children in her hometown of Sonoma California by building a free children’s clinic. Her efforts to get this clinic built involve applying for grants and holding fund raisers.

At the various fund raisers she has this eerie feeling that someone is watching her.  Things get serious when she starts receiving threatening letters.  One even had a dead snake with it!  Afraid that she’ll end up dead like the snake, she seeks the help of former lawman Shaun O’Neill, who has issues of his own.  His former job was as a border patrolman.  When a border crossing went wrong and he couldn’t save the people he decided to leave the job and come back home to rethink a few things.

In going over the clues left by the stalker Shaun comes to the astonishing conclusion that this same person murdered his sister five years ago!  He is determined to protect Monica and help her get her children’s clinic built even if it means personally drawing out this “Stalker in the Shadows”.  You may be surprised who this stalker is and why he is doing this.

posted by Christy

Beyond The Farthest Star by Brodie and Brock Thoene

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

  (Find this book in our catalog)Life in a small town can be a blessing or a curse depending on whether you are a native or an outsider. Adam Wells- the so called Miracle Preacher Boy – and his family move to small town Leonard, Texas to restart again. Adam blames all the discord in his life on the actions of his sixteen year old daughter Anne.

Anne has issues of her own.  Being a preacher’s kid is not easy.  Once she believed she knew what she wanted and who she was.  This move of her father’s, the third in less than five years has pushed her from confused to feeling hopeless and trapped.  Then she meets Stephen, a confident cowboy, who sees beyond her swagger and angst to the real her.  The question is can Stephen help Anne and her family get beyond the bitterness to renew their faith and go “Beyond the Farthest Star” to fulfill God’s plans for their lives.

Posted by Christy

One Maryland One Book

Friday, March 23rd, 2012


Get your bookmarks ready!

The Cellist of Sarajevo is the 2012 One Maryland One Book pick!  Watch a short video interview with author Steven Galloway and learn about the book at

  Find this book in our catalog  Summary: “A spare and haunting, wise and beautiful novel about the endurance of the human spirit and the subtle ways individuals reclaim their humanity in a city ravaged by war. In a city under siege, four people whose lives have been upended are ultimately reminded of what it is to be human. From his window, a musician sees twenty-two of his friends and neighbors waiting in a breadline. Then, in a flash, they are killed by a mortar attack. In an act of defiance, the man picks up his cello and decides to play at the site of the shelling for twenty-two days, honoring their memory. Elsewhere, a young man leaves home to collect drinking water for his family and, in the face of danger, must weigh the value of generosity against selfish survivalism. A third man, older, sets off in search of bread and distraction and instead runs into a long-ago friend who reminds him of the city he thought he had lost, and the man he once was. As both men are drawn into the orbit of cello music, a fourth character—a young woman, a sniper—holds the fate of the cellist in her hands. As she protects him with her life, her own army prepares to challenge the kind of person she has become. A novel of great intensity and power, and inspired by a true story, The Cellist of Sarajevo poignantly explores how war can change one’s definition of humanity, the effect of music on our emotional endurance, and how a romance with the rituals of daily life can itself be a form of resistance.”

John Burroughs Medal for Natural History

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

  Sex and the River Styx by Edward Hoagland (Find in our catalog) has won this year’s John Burroughs Medal,  given by the John Burroughs Association to “the author of a distinguished book of natural history.”

Summary in our catalog: “Named by as a “Best Book of the Month” for February 2011! Edward Hoagland Elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences Called the best essayist of his time by luminaries like Philip Roth, John Updike, and Edward Abbey, Edward Hoagland brings readers his ultimate collection. In Sex and the River Styx , the author’s sharp eye and intense curiosity shine through in essays that span his childhood exploring the woods in his rural Connecticut, his days as a circus worker, and his travels the world over in his later years.  Here, we meet Hoagland at his best: traveling to Kampala, Uganda, to meet a family he’d been helping support only to find a divide far greater than he could have ever imagined; reflecting on aging, love, and sex in a deeply personal, often surprising way; and bringing us the wonder of wild places, alongside the disparity of losing them, and always with a twist that brings the genre of nature writing to vastly new heights.  His keen dissection of social realities and the human spirit will both startle and lure readers as they meet African matriarchs, Tibetan yak herders, circus aerialists, and the strippers who entertained college boys in 1950s Boston.  Says Howard Frank Mosher in his foreword, the self-described rhapsodist “could fairly be considered our last, great transcendentalist.”


National Book Critics Circle Awards

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards who were honored March 8 include:

  Fiction: Edith Pearlman for Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories (Find in our catalog)

  Nonfiction: Maya Jasanoff for Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (Find in our catalog)

  Biography: John Lewis Gaddis for George F. Kennan: An American Life (Find in our catalog)

  Autobiography: Mira Bartek for The Memory Palace: A Memoir (Find in our catalog)


Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction

Friday, March 16th, 2012

  Andrew Westoll won the $25,000 Canadian Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction for his book The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A Canadian Story of Resilience and Recovery (Find in our catalog). In his acceptance speech, Westoll thanked the jury, his wife, his agent and his parents, then he thanked “a woman named Gloria Grow and a rather unusual list of individuals: Binky and Regis, Jethro and Chancey, Rachel and Petra, Yoko and Toby, Sue Ellen and Pepper and Spock. This, he explained, was Grow’s “family of chimps, who welcomed me into their world so warmly. Well, most of them did. Some of them threw stuff at me,” the National Post reported.

Summary in our catalog: “In 1997 Gloria Grow started a sanctuary for chimps retired from biomedical research on her farm outside Montreal. For the indomitable Gloria, caring for thirteen great apes is like presiding over a maximum security prison, a Zen sanctuary, an old folks home, and a New York deli during the lunchtime rush all rolled into one. But she is first and foremost creating a refuge for her troubled charges, a place where they can recover and begin to trust humans again. Hoping to win some of this trust, the journalist Andrew Westoll spent months at Fauna Farm as a volunteer and vividly recounts his time in the chimp house and the histories of its residents. He arrives with dreams of striking up an immediate friendship with the legendary Tom, the wise face of the Great Ape Protection Act, but Tom seems all too content to ignore him. Gradually, though, old man Tommie and the rest of the troop begin to warm toward Westoll as he learns the routines of life at the farm and realizes just how far the chimps have come. Seemingly simple things like grooming, establishing friendships and alliances, and playing games with the garden hose are all poignant testament to the capacity of these animals to heal. Brimming with empathy and winning stories of Gloria and her charges, The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary is an absorbing, bighearted book that grapples with questions of just what we owe to the animals who are our nearest genetic relations”– Provided by publisher.