Mary Ann’s May Recommendation

The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley’s Masterpiece  by Roseanne Montillo

the lady and her monstersScientists were conducting bizarre experiments before Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein.  “Resurrectionists”  snatched bodies for doctors so they could study anatomy.  Half of this book describes the creepy and astonishing experiments on dead people (or parts of them) with electrical charges to see if they came to “life.”

Many of the experiments were conducted before spectators.

Mary Shelley’s unconventional parents, her scandalous affair with Percy Byssche Shelley, and her writing of Frankenstein are equally fascinating.

3 Similar Reads

Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession by Anne Rice

Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories by Chuck Palahniuk

The Best Science Writing Online 2012 


Weekly Spotlight: Gatsby Read-Alikes

May 10th is the theater release of The Great Gatsby (2013) starring Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, the Midwestern War veteran who is introduced to the lifestyle of his millionaire neighbor Jay Gatsby, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. The story takes place in 1922 in Long Island during a time of economic prosperity.

The Great Gatsby is considered a classic novel, and one you’ve no doubt already read in school at some point. If you haven’t, find a copy here.

The Roaring Twenties was known for the growth of jazz, flapper culture, and bootlegging. There are many great books that incorporate the spirit of the times. I have selected a few of those below. Click the title for a link to the record in our catalog. Happy reading!

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

the other typist

“Take a dollop of Alfred Hitchcock, a dollop of Patricia Highsmith, throw in some Great Gatsby flourishes, and the result is Rindell’s debut, a pitch-black comedy about a police stenographer accused of murder in 1920s Manhattan…. A deliciously addictive, cinematically influenced page-turner, both comic and provocative.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Working as a typist for the NYC Police Department in 1923, Rose Baker documents confessions of harrowing crimes and struggles with changing gender roles while clinging to her Victorian ideals and searching for nurturing companionship before becoming obsessed with a glamorous newcomer and her world of bobbed hair, smoking and speakeasies.” -Publisher


 The Chaperone by Laura Moriaty

chaperone“The New York Times bestseller and the USA Today #1 Hot Fiction Pick for the summer,The Chaperone is a captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922 and the summer that would change them both.

Drawing on the rich history of the 1920s,’30s, and beyond—from the orphan trains to Prohibition, flappers,  and the onset of the Great Depression to the burgeoning movement for equal rights and new opportunities for women—Laura Moriarty’sThe Chaperone illustrates how rapidly everything, from fashion and hemlines to values and attitudes, was changing at this time and what a vast difference it all made for Louise Brooks, Cora Carlisle, and others like them.” – Summary

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

perfume collector“Dazzles the senses.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“A remarkable novel about secrets, desire, memory, passion, and possibility.

Newlywed Grace Monroe doesn’t fit anyone’s expectations of a successful 1950s London socialite, least of all her own. When she receives an unexpected inheritance from a complete stranger, Madame Eva d’Orsey, Grace is drawn to uncover the identity of her mysterious benefactor.

Weaving through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London, the story Grace uncovers is that of an extraordinary women who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumers. Immortalized in three evocative perfumes, Eva d’Orsey’s history will transform Grace’s life forever, forcing her to choose between the woman she is expected to be and the person she really is.

The Perfume Collector explores the complex and obsessive love between muse and artist, and the tremendous power of memory and scent.” – publisher

Z: A Novel of Ella Fitzgerald by Therese Fowler

Z A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

“With lyrical prose, Fowler’s beautifully portrays the frenzied lives of, and complicated relationship between, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald…This is a novel that will open readers’ minds to the life of an often misunderstood woman—one not easily forgotten.” —RT Book Reviews

“When beautiful, reckless, seventeen- year- old Zelda Sayre meets Lieutenant Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald at a country club dance, he isn’t rich or settled; no one knows his people; and he wants, of all things, to be a writer in New York. After Scott sells his first novel, Zelda defies her parents to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It is the Jazz Age, and for Zelda and Scott the future will be grander and stranger than they could have ever imagined.” -Publisher


Martin Dressler: the tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Milhauser

martin dressler“The novel is told as a fable, with prose both lush and dreamlike. The characters are intentionally rather shadowy, while the period details- of building construction, interior design, dress styles, street scenes–have a sensuality so palpable you can practically chew on them.” -The Wall Street Journal

“Young Martin Dressler begins his career as an industrious helper in his father’s cigar store. In the course of his restless young manhood, he makes a swift and eventful rise to the top, accompanied by two sisters–one a dreamlike shadow, the other a worldly business partner. As the eponymous Martin’s vision becomes bolder and bolder he walks a haunted line between fantasy and reality, madness and ambition, art and industry, a sense of doom builds piece-by-hypnotic piece until this mesmerizing journey into the heart of an American dreamer reaches its bitter-sweet conclusion.” – Summary

  • 1996 Nominated National Book Award

  • 1996 Won Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year

  • 1997 Won Pulitzer Prize


The Bobbed haired bandit : a true story of crime and celebrity in 1920s New York

by Stephen Duncombe

the bobbed haired bandit“In 1924, Celia Cooney, a newly married laundress in Brooklyn, found herself unexpectedly pregnant. The Cooneys’ $30-a-week income couldn’t support a baby. So Celia and her husband, Ed, began holding up neighborhood drugstores. In this riveting book, the authors, scholars in history and media studies (Duncombe at NYU, Mattson at SUNY-Old Westbury) reconstruct and analyze not only the crime spree but also the ensuing media frenzy. Savvy newspaper editors knew the story of a girl with a gun would sell; they christened Celia the Bobbed Hair Bandit and made her a star. According to the authors, she stood in for the era’s anxieties about changing gender roles, her bob a symbol of liberated women. Suddenly, any gal with a bob was seen as a potential threat-even Zelda Fitzgerald was reportedly pulled over by cops and questioned. Once Celia was finally arrested, the public learned about her grueling childhood and negligent mother. Editorialists, including progressive pundit Walter Lippmann, then held Celia up as an example of what happened to poor and abused children when society failed to intervene. Duncombe and Mattson’s fast-paced account of Cooney’s story is an absolute winner.” -Publisher’s Weekly Review

One Sunday Morning by Amy Ephron

one sunday morning“Short, light period women’s fiction with itty-bitty chapters and clever twists is Ephron’s specialty (A Cup of Tea; White Rose; etc.). This one is set in 1926 and features New York’s postdeb set, pretty jazz-age flappers with bobbed hair who are either just about to be married or looking hard for a suitable husband at all the smart parties. When Lizzie Carswell is seen walking out of the Gramercy Park Hotel Sunday morning after a big dance at the Waldorf, still in her evening clothes and with another girl’s fiance, it takes no time at all for the scandalized buzz to reach every speakeasy and society gathering in town. That very night Lizzie is snubbed at the opera by absolutely everyone except kindhearted Mary Nell. A corpse turns up is it the guilty fiance, unable to face his future? That little mystery is quickly solved. Mary meets a handsome world traveler who might just be Mr. Right. And then some of the girls whirl off to Europe Paris, Nice, Monte Carlo with predictably unpredictable romantic results. Don’t expect The Great Gatsby (the fashionable new novel that Mary is reading aboard The Paris as she steams off to Paris); expect, instead, a quick, delightful little excursion.” – Publisher’s Weekly Review

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

rules of civility“On New Year’s Eve 1937, at a jazz bar in NewYork’s Greenwich Village, Katey and Eve are charmed by the handsome and successful Tinker Grey. The three become fast friends and spend early 1938 exploring the town together, until a car accident permanently injures Eve. Feeling guilty, Tinker, the driver, takes care of Eve and unsuccessfully tries to love her. Despite the presence and initial impact of Tinker and Eve, though, this first novel is about Katey’s 1938. Eve moves on, and Tinker fades, but Katey, the narrator, stays to challenge the NewYork bourgeois unwaveringly with her acerbic wit, capturing the attention of several doting men. She quits her job as a typist and pursues a career as editor of a respected, if risqué, society magazine. And Katey does it without a handout (she thinks).” – Library Journal


For something a little different: 

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York  by Deborah Blum

poisoner's handbook“Pulitzer Prize–winning science journalist Blum (Ghost Hunters ) makes chemistry come alive in her enthralling account of two forensic pioneers in early 20th-century New York. Blum follows the often unglamorous but monumentally important careers of Dr. Charles Norris, Manhattan’s first trained chief medical examiner, and Alexander Gettler, its first toxicologist. Moving chronologically from Norris’s appointment in 1918 through his death in 1936, Blum cleverly divides her narrative by poison, providing not only a puzzling case for each noxious substance but the ingenious methods devised by the medical examiner’s office to detect them. Before the advent of forensic toxicology, which made it possible for the first time to identify poisons in corpses, Gettler learned the telltale signs of everything from cyanide (it leaves a corrosive trail in the digestive system) to the bright pink flush that signals carbon monoxide poisoning. In a particularly illuminating section, Blum examines the dangers of bootleg liquor (commonly known as wood, or methyl, alcohol) produced during Prohibition. With the pacing and rich characterization of a first-rate suspense novelist, Blum makes science accessible and fascinating.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Ashley’s January Recommendation

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

“Our online catalog offers this description of Flight Behavior: ‘Tired of living on a failing farm and suffering oppressive poverty, bored housewife Dellarobia Turnbow, on the way to meet a potential lover, is detoured by a miraculous event on the Appalachian mountainside that ignites a flight behaviormedia and religious firestorm that changes her life forever.’  I’d simply add that this miracles turns out to be an ecological disturbance that the characters in the books must face.  Kingsolver writes stories that marry down to earth characters with the earth.  Her work weaves in information about plants, bugs and animals and relates them to people.  She gives the environmental movement a deeply human context.  Flight Behavior is no exception.  The character transformation in this novel cannot be emphasized enough.  Dellarobia goes from discontented housewife to budding scientist–all because of an environmental phenomenon that occurs on her mountain.  This tranformation has a lasting impact on her relationship with her friends and family–many of whom experience their own transformations throughout the novel.”

Read about or request this novel from the library catalog!

3 Similar Reads (Fiction)

Goodnight, Texas by William J. Cobb

Anthill by Edward O. Wilson

The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt

3 Similar Reads (Nonfiction)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond

Sophia’s January Recommendation

Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner

“Quantum Theory/Mechanics is a tough topic. The findings of the early fathers, Planck, Bohr, Heisenberg, and Einstein describe a theory that remains unshakable. It has remained in place since the early 1900’s and now serves as the theoretical quantum enigmaunderpinning of roughly 30% of our economy.  The authors have done a great job of introducing the subject and its history, as well as describing exactly what quantum theory is and how it is at the core of much of the technology we have developed since the early 20th century.  This book is not easy, however it rewards the patient reader with an understanding of topics that ordinarily require a deeper understanding of mathematics.  The authors walk the reader through the fascinating concepts of superposition, entanglement, wave/particle duality, etc., and with a bit of patience, what they are saying, makes these concepts understandable.  The topic is fascinating insofar as the theory decribes a world that is so very very different from the logical, causal, time bound, classical reality we dutifully accommodate in our daily lives.”

Read about this book or request it from the library catalog!

3 Similar Reads (Nonfiction)

The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking

Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century by Michio Kaku

The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene

3 Similar Reads (Fiction)

Bone and Blood: A Novel of Speculative Fiction by Jim Baron

Toward the End of Time by John Updike

The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke

Pat’s November Recommendation

Unaccountable by Dr. Marty Makary

“I watched an interview with Dr. Marty Makary and was then very interested to read his book Unaccountable.  It’s a book about what hospitals won’t tell you and how transparency can revolutionize health care.  Here are some things that are discussed: Medical mistakes are the fifth leading causes of death in the United States.  The number of patients killed by preventable medical errors every year is equivalent to four jumbo jets crashing each week! Wow! I didn’t like reading that statistic!”

Read about Unaccountable or request it from the library catalog today!

3 Similar Reads (Nonfiction)

1) County: Life, Death, and Politics at Chicago’s Public Hospital by David Ansell

2) The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

3) Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen

3 Similar Reads (Fiction)

1) So Much For That by Lionel Shriver

2) Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

3) Contagion by Robin Cook

Sue’s April Recommendation

You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory is Mostly Fiction, And 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRaney

“McRaney debunks common misperceptions on his blog  This book is a series of essays, summarizing a multitude of scientific experiments that expose many ways we fool ourselves into thinking that we are smarter than we really are.  His writing is breezy and lean, and I liked that I could read a few pages at a time–because, as I learned,  I am not so smart!”

Read about it or request it from the library catalog!

Sophia’s April Recommendation

Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge To Evolution by Michael J. Behe

“Both sides of the Evolution/Intelligent Design argument have been angry, unyielding  and too often filled with an unrelenting contempt for the other side. To the Evolutionists,  the Intelligent Design folks are bumpkins: blinded by their own religious prejudices. To the Intelligent Design folk: the Evolutionists are materialist reductionists unwilling to consider evidence that does not fit their equally restrictive Darwinian model of evolution.

In his book, Darwin’s Black Box: the Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Mr. Behe explores a limitation of the Darwinian Model. He presents a lucid and intriguing argument. This is an oversimplified attempt to distill his argument:

Certain things can indeed be seemingly explained by evolution, for example, animals living in arboreal environments eventually develop body parts that more likely insure survival such as longer fingers  so that they can climb and hold on to branches: This is an example of changes that are selected for over time to expedite survival.

Other things cannot be explained by evolution. They are the living analog of such things as a mouse trap: One does not put out a spring, a piece of cheese and a wood platform and hope that over time, these item will come together to form a mousetrap. A mousetrap is “irreducible complex”, that is it does not happen incrementally, it is either a mousetrap or it isn’t.  So it is with many biochemical processes of life that are complicit in evolution.  This book, despite it’s somewhat intimidating title, is very readable by the layperson and presents a fascinating description of these processes and breathes credible life into an argument that seeming had been won by the Darwinian Evolutionists. An exhilarating  read!”

Read about it or request it from the library catalog!