A rich and satisfying story – Genna’s August suggestion*

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

kitchens midwest coverGenna says: “I love love loved this book. The story revolves around Eva and her extremely advanced palate and cooking abilities, who we see grow up and rise to culinary success throughout the story. From the rambunctious middle schooler who grows rare chili peppers in her closet to a world class chef who hosts exclusive meals, Eva is the driving force behind the story, but the story isn’t all about her. Instead, author Stradal shows the reader a host of characters and their interaction with the foodie culture. A uniquely woven narrative places the reader in the eyes of a different character every chapter, somehow that character is distantly connected to Eva.

I especially loved closing the last page and flipping it around to look at the book cover again. All the images on the cover represent different chapters in the book, a beautiful touch to the novel. Would like to test some of the recipes tucked into the pages of the book; the author took them from a church cookbook.

If you still don’t believe me, read the NY Times Book Review by clicking here.

To read a sample of the ebook, click here.

*Lisa suggested this title, too!

 

Genna’s April Recommendation

It’s What I Do:  A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario

it's what i do

Genna says:  “Woah, this girl is a rock star!  Addario is an award-winning photojournalist (Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur Fellow) who covered much of the war, conflict, and injustices in Iran, Afghanistan, Haiti, the Congo, and Darfur.  Addario was kidnapped for six days in Libya along with other New York Times photographers.  Even after the incident she still got back into the field.  Addario’s passion for photographing the world is apparent, and her unflinching strength and courage is inspiring.  Her memoir recounts the struggles trying to stay in touch with family while living across the world, her difficult romantic relationships, and the discrimination she faced in other countries being a woman.

This memoir is very well-written and straightforward.  Her story is very inspiring, plus the book itself has photo-quality pages so turning the book is a treat.  Tucked away on some of the pages are her amazing photographs.  A great read!
Fun fact:  Steven Spielberg bought the rights to produce this memoir into a movie and Jennifer Lawrence will play the lead.”
3 Similar Reads

Genna’s February Recommendation

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

smoke gets in your eyes

Genna says:  “For fans of Mary Roach’s Stiff or HBO’s Six Feet Under, you might like this title.

You wouldn’t normally think that a book about death and cremation would be an entertaining read, but Smoke Gets in Your Eyes was fascinating! I can see why it made it to the New York Times Bestsellers list.

The author relates her experiences working at a crematory and later going to mortuary school – but she also intertwines the history and customs of death both in our culture and outside of the United States.
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She discusses death in a way that feels very accessible, and though there were a few gross-out passages, you will also feel as though you are getting a history lesson. The author’s B.A. in Medieval History served her well in crafting a story that is both engaging and historical.
Doughty’s memoir is very easy to read and highly entertaining. If you aren’t too squeamish, then check it out. She is also a very popular blogger and has a web series called Ask a Mortician.”
3 Similar Reads

Genna’s January Recommendation

The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

the book of strange new thingsGenna says:  “If you are in the mood for a literary, metaphysical, sci-fi novel, this is for you. It’s been twelve years since author Michael Faber published his last book, so he had plenty of time to craft this novel, and it shows.
Many times while reading this, I said out loud – ‘Wow, this is such a great book!’
Peter is a married minster who is chosen for a mission with a corporation called USIC, located on another planet. Everyone has a job to do, and Peter’s is to teach the Bible to the inhabitants of the planet – aliens. Peter exchanges heartfelt messages with his wife, who is struggling through their separation and also because of the disasters happening on earth – tsunamis and food shortages. The landscape of Peter’s new world is very different from earth – a hot desert that rains often and produces a plant called whiteflower. Peter is shocked to find that the drinking water is green-colored and tastes like honeydew, the apartment he stays in has no lock on the door, and the pastor who came before him went missing in action. The book really is a great way of understanding pastoral work in action – Peter begins to build a church and teaches the aliens from the Bible, or what they refer to it as: ‘The Book of Strange New Things.’
This book was so vivid and descriptive that it reminded me of several movies. It had the gentleness of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial combined with the gut-wrenching sadness of separation of space exploration that drives the new Interstellar movie.”
Does this sound interesting?  Click here for a sample!
3 Similar Reads
Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux

Spotlight On…Self Help Classics You Never Got Around To Reading

RFPL has some great books to help you communicate, be creative, work on relationships, and contemplate your best self.

It’s great to keep up with all the newly released books, but there are some really great classic self-help books as well. You may recognize many on this list, but how many have you really read? Browse through and see if any of these self – help and motivational titles will help you reach your New Year’s goals.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”)-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful. – publisher summary

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray

Once upon a time Martians and Venusians met, fell in love, and had happy relationships together because they respected and accepted their differences. Then they came to earth and amnesia set in: they forgot they were from different planets.

Using this metaphor to illustrate the commonly occurring conflicts between men and women, Gray explains how these differences can come between the sexes and prohibit mutually fulfilling loving relationships. Based on years of successful counseling of couples, he gives advice on how to counteract these differences in communication styles, emotional needs and modes of behavior to promote a greater understanding between individual partners. – publisher summary

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

By learning the five love languages, you and your spouse will discover your unique love languages and learn practical steps in truly loving each other. Chapters are categorized by love language for easy reference, and each one ends with simple steps to express a specific language to your spouse and guide your marriage in the right direction. A newly designed love languages assessment will help you understand and strengthen your relationship. You can build a lasting, loving marriage together.- publisher summary

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

In the original Think and Grow Rich, published in 1937, Hill draws on stories of Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and other millionaires of his generation to illustrate his principles. In the updated version, Arthur R. Pell, Ph.D., a nationally known author, lecturer, and consultant in human resources management and an expert in applying Hill’s thought, deftly interweaves anecdotes of how contemporary millionaires and billionaires, such as Bill Gates, Mary Kay Ash, Dave Thomas, and Sir John Templeton, achieved their wealth. Outmoded or arcane terminology and examples are faithfully refreshed to preclude any stumbling blocks to a new generation of readers – publisher summary

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Learn the six ways to make people like you, the twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking, and the nine ways to change people without arousing resentment. –publisher summary

Also try: How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s famous investigations of “optimal experience” have revealed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called flow. During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. In this new edition of his groundbreaking classic work, Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates the ways this positive state can be controlled, not just left to chance. –publisher summary

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, this book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions on how to live. The narrator’s relationship with his son leads to a powerful self-reckoning;the craft of motorcycle maintenance leads to an austerely beautiful process for reconciling science, religion, and humanism. Resonant with the confusions of existence, this classic is a touching and transcendent book of life.– publisher summary

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson

Most people are fearful of change because they don’t believe they have any control over how or when it happens to them. Since change happens either to the individual or by the individual, Spencer Johnson shows us that what matters most is the attitude we have about change. – publisher summary

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

The Alchemist is the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. From his home in Spain he journeys to the markets of Tangiers and across the Egyptian desert to a fateful encounter with the alchemist.

The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories have done, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams. – publisher summary

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

The author describes his transition from despair to self-realization soon after his 29th birthday. Tolle took another ten years to understand this transformation, during which time he evolved a philosophy that has parallels in Buddhism, relaxation techniques, and meditation theory but is also eminently practical. In The Power of Now he shows readers how to recognize themselves as the creators of their own pain, and how to have a pain-free existence by living fully in the present. Accessing the deepest self, the true self, can be learned, he says, by freeing ourselves from the conflicting, unreasonable demands of the mind and living present, fully, and intensely, in the Now. – publisher summary

The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz

In The Four Agreements don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, the Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love. – publisher summary

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Let us know in the comments if any of these were helpful for you!

Genna’s December Recommendation

Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme

Genna says: “This book drew me in from the start. The main character Ceinwen, a 21 year old female living with two male roommates in NYC in the 1980s, is really spunky and offbeat. I love that Ceinwen and her friends work for antique clothing stores – she wears dresses and bangles and earrings from different decades and describes them in detail. I loved learning about fashion from different eras! Ceinwen is an old movie buff and meets a hunky British math professor. The pair begin a quest to find out if the older woman, Miriam, living in her apartment building is really a famous movie star or not. Read this book if you want to get sucked into New York City in the ’80s and learn about old Hollywood films!”

Kirkus Reviews says: “Rumors of a lost silent film send a quirky heroine and her bemused boyfriend on a delightful escapade….Simply grand; this tale begs to be filmed.”

Entertainment Weekly says: ” And when [Ceinwen]’s not dressing up like Jean Harlow to work as a shopgirl at Vintage Visions, or forcing her gay roommates/BFFs to watch Shanghai Express, she’s hunting for her own lost classic, The Mysteries of Udolpho, a silent film that may or may not star her downstairs neighbor Miriam.”

3 Similar Titles:

Not to Be Missed: 54 Favorites From A Lifetime of Film by Kenneth Turan  — Read Turan’s views on 54 classic film picks!

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (and the prequel The Rosie Project)  — Graeme Simsion first introduced these unforgettable characters in The Rosie Project, which NPR called “sparkling entertainment along the lines of Where’d You Go Bernadette and When Harry Met Sally.” The San Francisco Chronicle said, “sometimes you just need a smart love story that will make anyone, man or woman, laugh out loud.”

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Birth of Tinseltown by William J Mann–Tells the story of William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, and the diverse cast that surrounded him before he was murdered in 1922.

 

 

 

Spotlight: Announcing RFPL Staff’s 2014 Best Books of the Year!

For the second year in a row, we are pleased to present you with a list of our handpicked, best-of-the-year books from our fabulous staff. Curious to see last year’s picks? Click here.

Some favorites that appeared several times included The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.

For each book, there is a brief description taken from the publisher or library catalog. The link will take you to our records, in many cases we own these books in print, audiobook, e-book and e-audiobook. Read one of our favorites, and then tell us how it was!

Comment with your favorite books of the year in the comments section– we’d love to hear from you!

Sophia

  • Marriage and Civilization by William Tucker
    • Monogamous marriage built civilization; will its collapse destroy it? Documents the historical and anthropological story behind how monogamous, lifelong partnerships are the driving force behind the creation and rise of civilization.
  • The Oath: The Obama White House and The Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin
    • From the moment Chief Justice Roberts botched Barack Obama’s oath of office, the relationship between the Court and the White House has been a fraught one.  Jeffrey Toobin brilliantly portrays key personalities and cases and shows how the President was fatally slow to realize the importance of the judicial branch to his agenda.

Sue

  • The Goldfinch  by Donna Tartt
    • A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a friend’s family and struggles to make sense of his new life. In the years that follow, he becomes entranced by one of the few things that reminds him of his mother: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the art underworld.
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith 
    • A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel’s suicide. This is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Blaise

  • Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson
    • For John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, deep wreck diving was more than a sport. Testing themselves against treacherous currents, braving depths that induced hallucinatory effects, navigating through wreckage as perilous as a minefield, they pushed themselves to their limits and beyond, brushing against death more than once in the rusting hulks of sunken ships.
  • One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by BJ Novak
    • Across a dazzling range of subjects, themes, tones, and narrative voices, the many pieces in this collection are like nothing else, but they have one thing in common: they share the playful humor, deep heart, sharp eye, inquisitive mind, and altogether electrifying spirit of a writer with a fierce devotion to the entertainment of the reader

Margaret

  • The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
    • Engaging the services of a miniaturist to furnish a cabinet-sized replica of her new home, 18-year-old Nella Oortman, the wife of an illustrious merchant trader, soon discovers that the artist’s tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways.
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
    • A stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Dana

  • The Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French. First in series: In the Woods
    • Detective Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, investigate the murder of a 12-year-old girl near a Dublin suburb. The case resonates with similarities to a murder committed twenty years before that involved two children and the young Ryan.
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
    • Taking a job as an assistant to extreme sports enthusiast Will, who is wheelchair bound after a motorcycle accident, Louisa struggles with her employer’s acerbic moods and learns of his shocking plans before demonstrating to him that life is still worth living.

Genna

  • We Were Liars by E.L. Lockhart
    • Spending the summers on her family’s private island off the coast of Massachusetts with her cousins and a special boy named Gat, teenaged Cadence struggles to remember what happened during her fifteenth summer.
  • Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Phillips
    • A down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids’ puppet shows finds herself trapped on a remote island off the coast of Maine with a sexy horror novelist who knows a dozen ways to kill with his bare hands.

Lisa

  • The Visitors by Sally Beauman
    • Built around Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, this evocative novel. . . blends fact and fiction to recreate a lost world that’s still fiercely enthralling and relevant today
  • Jana Bibi’s Excellent Fortunes by Betsy Woodman
    • Meet Jana Bibi, a Scottish woman helping to save the small town in India she has grown to call home and the oddball characters she considers family.

Richard

  • Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming
    • British secret agent James Bond assumes the identity of a captured courier and solicits the help of gorgeous Tiffany Case, the diamond smugglers’ American go-between.
  • Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag
    •  Against Interpretation was Susan Sontag’s first collection of essays and is a modern classic. Originally published in 1966, it has never gone out of print and has influenced generations of readers all over the world. It includes the famous essays “Notes on Camp” and “Against Interpretation,” as well as her impassioned discussions of Sartre, Camus, Simone Weil, Godard, Beckett, Levi-Strauss, science-fiction movies, psychoanalysis, and contemporary religious thought.

Victoria

  • Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
    • Alice Metcalf was a devoted mother, loving wife, and accomplished scientist who studied grief among elephants. Yet it’s been a decade since she disappeared under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind her small daughter, husband, and the animals to which she devoted her life.
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
    • Follows three mothers, each at a crossroads, and their potential involvement in a riot at a school trivia night that leaves one parent dead in what appears to be a tragic accident, but which evidence shows might have been premeditated.

Karen

  • The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
    • Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself
  • Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian
    • Living in an igloo of ice and trash bags half a year after a cataclysmic nuclear disaster, Emily, convinced that she will be hated as the daughter of the drunken father who caused the meltdown, assumes a fictional identity while protecting a homeless boy.

Mary Ann

  • The Circle by Dave Eggers
    • When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world–even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public.
  • Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman
    • On November 14, 1889, two young female journalists raced against one another, determined to outdo Jules Verne’s fictional hero and circle the globe in less than 80 days. The dramatic race that ensued would span 28,000 miles, captivate the nation, and change both competitors’ lives forever.

Amy

  • The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
    • When four twelve-year-olds, including Logan, who has grown up never leaving his parents’ Life Is Sweet candy factory, compete in the Confectionary Association’s annual contest, they unexpectedly become friends and uncover secrets about themselves during the process.
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
    • Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits–smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try

Magdalena

  • Grandmaster by David Klass
    • A father-son chess tournament reveals the dark side of the game
  • A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
    • The Pickles are new to Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, a town which legend says was once magic–but Felicity is convinced the magic is still there, and with the help of her new friend Jonah the Beedle she hopes to bring the magic back.

Claudia

  • The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
    • Catalyzed by a nephew’s thoughtless prank, a pair of brothers confront painful psychological issues surrounding the freak accident that killed their father when they were boys, a loss linked to a heartbreaking deception that shaped their personal and professional lives.
  • The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
    • A novel set on a remote Australian island, where a childless couple live quietly running a lighthouse, until a boat carrying a baby washes ashore

Share your favorite books of 2014 in the comments below, or stop by the library and talk to us about your favorites!