Category Archives: Book Reviews

Little Known (but AMAZING) Graphic Novels

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Sequential Art; call it what you want it is still one of the hottest collections in libraries and book stores. The greatest thing is that you can find wonderful reads at your reading level and every level below you. You could probably go the other way, but some of the content of the teen and adults graphic novels are a little much for our younger readers. I am lucky enough to have a kid in the children’s section and one in the teen’s section so I get exposed to a lot of great comic books passing through our house and stuff I might of missed is thrust into my face (often literally) with an exuberant “Read this, Dad!” on a regular basis. Whether it’s collected volumes of individual issues, manga volumes from overseas, or new purpose written stories, these books are showing up in every library for every age group and here are some of the best you might miss.

In the Children’s Library:

There are a plethora of options for everyone in the children’s section. There are the standard Pokémon and superhero books and some graphic novels based on mythology that are all good, but there are also some hidden gems with the power to delight all ages.

Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet Series is a favorite for all ages. This bildungsroman tells Emily and her brother’s story as they travel worlds, fight elves and search for their mother. It is remarkably evocative and pulls no punches, despite being written with children primarily in mind. It will only take ten pages before you realize this series may require tissues.

Judd Winick’s HiLo Series was originally designed to be an all-ages comic that he could use to show kids his work. The alien boy who came to earth tale really does appeal to all ages as Winick uses his gift for storytelling to create a story for all

Scott Chantler’s The Three Thieves series is one of the best series of fantasy comics I’ve ever read. The story keeps making you think you know what’s going on only to take another unexpected twist. This comic has heart and pathos as well as action and wonderful characters.

Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale is a western fantasy meets steampunk fairytale mashup. The couple that brought you some of the outrageously popular Squirrel Girl storylines has a series of their own. Rapunzel and Jack are far more different than you’ve ever seen them before and the changes make them more interesting.

In the Teen Section:

Here we find the meat of the graphic novels. Here is most of the manga, almost all of the mainstream DC and Marvel titles, and all the avant-garde books like Maus that have hit such heights of recognition that they sometimes appear on school reading lists. It’s hard to find something that a teen hasn’t already talked up but here are a few options.

Takehiko Inoue and Vagabond tell the fictionalized tale of the life of Miyamoto Musashi. In recounting the tales of the life of one of Japan’s most famous and dangerous samurai, the series does not paint too nice a picture. The art is fantastic, the subject mythical and the story compelling.

Age of Bronze from Eric Shanower is another retelling. In this case it is a graphic version of the Trojan War. Shanower takes the tale back to its roots as sequential pictures on ancient Greek vases and fleshes out the whole story not just the small sliver we know from the Iliad. Best of all, after a long hiatus, this series is finally getting continued.

Superman: True Brit by Kim Johnson and John Cleese bring you the only superhero entry on the list. The man who created some of Monty Python’s best helps to create an Elseworlds man of steel who was brought up in England. At times you’ll think he ended up Clark Dursley.

Makoto Yukimura’s Planetes is the story of space garbage men. It tells the tale of several characters that remove space debris and their goals and personalities. While it is a near future science fiction tale, this series is really a character driven masterpiece.

In the Adult Department:

All those great graphic novels that make the New York Times Review of Books or are mentioned in The Atlantic are here.  From the classic old Peanut’s strips through the biographical Persepolis to the big publishing house critical darlings of The Sandman and Fables, they’re over with the adult books.

Blade of the Immortal just became a major, live action motion picture in the last few years but the graphic novel series by Hiroaki Samura is over 25 years old. It takes a common theme, redemption, and tells the hackneyed story in way that makes you still care how it turns out.

Brian K. Vaughn’s We Stand on Guard starts in the year 2112, 300 years after the war of 1812. It tells the story of freedom fighters taking on their technological giant oppressor and doing their best to renew their way of life. The political commentary and twist in the aggressor/defender relationship is truly spectacular.

Abe Sapien from Hellboy and BPRD is a newer edition. Mike Mignola has focused on telling the story of the aquatic amnesiac in his new collection. More than a spin off, it is rather an opportunity to expand on a fan favorite character. A green skinned, gill breathing fleshing out of a great soul.

Valerian is another one that was a movie recently. Luc Besson’s infatuation with this Franco-Belgian comic has influenced his films and caused him to adapt one of the stories into a major motion picture. Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières tell the tale of a galaxy traveling time hopping duo with interesting characterization. The European art style also provides an interesting change for those used to North American or Asian drawing techniques.

The Cartoon History of the Universe is my final entry here. Larry Gonnick uses with and silly art to guide readers on a journey through our semi-mythic prehistory and all the way to the creation of the modern world. His often overlooked works are as informative as they are entertaining.

So while these books aren’t as well known now as I might think they deserve, here’s to hoping that a few of you out there might pick up a book and take up their cause with me. I can guarantee you’ll find something on here that will amuse you.

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Scary Reads for Kids

By Alysia Maxwell, WCPLtn Library

It’s Halloween and that means it’s time for the creepy crawlies and the monsters to come out.  Kids are planning their costumes and their routes to the houses that give out the best candy. Houses are decked out in spider webs and eerie lights, and people are reveling in the supernatural and the macabre.

As parents, this time of year can be hard. We often want to protect children from the scariest things out there, but how much do we protect them and how much do we let them experience some of the fun of the season?  After all, what is it that we love so much about scary stories? Why do we seek out the things that send prickles down our spine? As adults we think that it’s that rush of adrenaline that comes from our senses being on high alert; but it’s more than that.  It’s also the relief that floods your body when you realize there’s not really someone hiding the closet. It’s the calm that washes away the fear when you know you are not in danger; everything is fine. You are safe.

That’s what it really comes down to, not the fear, but the feeling of safety.  No one actually wants to be scared all the time. We seek it out when feeling safe becomes too commonplace, too work-a-day, too boring.  We chase that rush of fear so that we can appreciate that feeling of tranquility again.

Kids are searching for that too, although they may not realize it.  The whole world is big and scary to them and they need to feel that reassurance as much as adults do, possibly even more so.  Of course, every kid is different and what barely startles one might be too much for another. I’m not telling you to traumatize your children, but don’t shy away from letting them read something that might be a little scary.  Let them experience those shivers so they can feel safe again. What could possibly be safer than being snuggled up warm with mom and dad reading a book together? Here are some great stories to read with your kids that will give you both the shivers.

Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman; Lucy hears  noises coming from inside the walls.  She is sure that there are wolves in the walls, but her family doesn’t believe it.  They tell her, “If the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over”. This picture book is great for a younger crowd because it is punctuated with humorous moments that break up the tension. When the wolves finally do come out of the walls they end up doing silly things like wearing Lucy’s socks and eating toast and jam.  This story says to kids that the thing they are afraid of may turn out to be not as bad as they think, and maybe even something they can handle just fine.

Another Gaiman gem for slightly older kids is Coraline.  Yes, it is a movie and a graphic novel, both of which are fantastic – but for me, nothing beats the original novel.  Something about the way the light glints off the button eyes of the Other Mother is so sinister and frightening. Here is a story that is precisely that search for excitement and return to safety.  Coraline is bored with her uneventful life, but her search for adventure ends up more than she bargained for. When she goes exploring the house and finds a mysteriously (sometimes) bricked up doorway it leads her to a very unnerving and terrifying version of her own life. It hits kids close to home with a seemingly idyllic family trying to steal her away from her real family. And no adult comes to her rescue. Coraline is the heroine of her own story and must rescue herself as well as her parents.  What better way to empower a child than to show them they can face their own fear and conquer it.

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste is a wonderfully spooky story based on Caribbean folklore. There are menacing creatures in the woods with glowing eyes and dark intentions. Corinne believes they are just stories made up to get children to behave, but maybe they are not made up after all. There is a witch whose beauty and attractiveness give her an ominous quality, especially when she tries to insert herself into Corinne’s family.  Once again the children are the ones who have to confront that which they fear and defeat it. Baptiste gives us fresh monsters to fuel the imagination.

Scarlett Hart Monster Hunter by Marcus Sedgwick reads more like an adventure story than a terror filled one, however this graphic novel does feature zombies, gargoyles and all sorts of otherworldly foes as well as a very earthly one as well.  Scarlett’s got grit and gadgets and her own faithful retainer (sort of like Batman’s Alfred) to help her bring down the baddies.

Guys Read: Terrifying Tales collected by Jon Scieszka is a great compilation of middle grade short stories by various authors including, among others, the master of kids’ horror himself R.L. Stein of Goosebumps fame. These are fun for reading quick stories each night (under the covers of course!)

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Parents may have read his beautiful Shadow of the Wind, but this oft overlooked YA title is particularly disturbing.  Max and his sister Alicia move to a small town and soon discover their new house holds a dark secret from the past.  They must uncover the mystery of a spectral creature who is trying to collect an old debt. If the weeping angels in Doctor Who send a chill up your spine this one is right up your alley.

The fun of Halloween is allowing ourselves to feel that delicious prickle of fear followed by the reassurance that we are not about to be eaten after all!  So grab a book and a flashlight, pull the blankets over your heads, and have fun reading these scary stories!

In the Future, the Year 2000… :Thoughts on Science Fiction

By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

Can you believe we’re living in The Future? For decades, the year 2000 seemed impossibly far away. Folks imagined that, by now, we’d have robot teachers and colonies on Mars, and the end of all disease. Companies would add the number “2000” after model numbers to connote cutting-edge technology from the bright, distant horizon. Marty McFly’s 2015 was a land of flying cars, expanding pizza, and self-tying shoes. (And fax machines. Fax machines were everywhere.)

Some of those visions for the future were spot on; others now seem charmingly out-of-date; and we’re still waiting for many of the rest to be invented. But isn’t it fantastic how often we hear about inventions that were inspired by Science Fiction? If “[science] is magic that works,” as Kurt Vonnegut says in Cat’s Cradle, then Science Fiction is the root of much of that magic. Imagination becomes ideas, which in turn become experiments. Experiments lead to discoveries, then inventions, and ultimately to the commonplace wonders we take for granted: such as the submarine (Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), the cell phone (the direct descendent of the “communicator” from the original Star Trek series), and even nuclear power (H.G. Wells’ The World Set Free). [1]

Wait. A fiction writer born in the 1800s gave the world the idea for nuclear power? It’s true! Decades after its publication, a scientist named Leo Szilard “read [The World Set Free] and was immediately inspired to create what Wells had dreamed up” – for better or for worse. [2] And when a teenaged Robert H. Goddard read Wells’ The War of the Worlds, it set him on a path of “research [that] culminated with the Apollo program, and man’s landing on the moon.” [3] So there’s an undeniable link between the Science Fiction genre and humanity’s incredible achievements. Keep that in mind the next time your friends give you a hard time for being a sci-fi geek!

Another cool thing about the sci-fi genre is that it often combines elements of many other genres, as well. There’s sci-fi horror, sci-fi thriller, sci-fi mystery, sci-fi romance… You get it. So, without further ado, I’m going to leave you with a great list of Science Fiction authors (many of them you’ll find on our genre bookmarks in the library), titles of some of their works, and sometimes the additional genres that come into play. (For example, when you see “humor,” think of it as “sci-fi + humor,” and so on.)

AUTHORS

  • Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (humor)
  • A. American – Survivalist series (pulpy but fun)
  • Charlie Jane Anders – All the Birds in the Sky
  • Hiromu Arakawa – Fullmetal Alchemist (manga)
  • Catherine Asaro – Quantum Rose
  • Isaac Asimov – Foundation series; Galactic Empire series; Robot series
  • Gertrude Barrows Bennett – Citadel of Fear (under pseudonym “Francis Stevens”)
  • Alfred Bester – The Stars My Destination (cyberpunk); The Demolished Man
  • Leigh Brackett – The Long Tomorrow
  • Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles; The Veldt (short story)
  • Octavia E. Butler – Xenogenesis series
  • Pat Cadigan – Synners (cyberpunk)
  • Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game series (YA)
  • Margaret Cavendish – The Blazing World (published in 1666!)
  • Becky Chambers – A Closed and Common Orbit
  • C. L. Cherryh – Downbelow Station
  • Arthur C. Clarke – 2001: A Space Odyssey (there are four books in the series); Childhood’s End
  • Ernest Cline – Ready Player One; Armada
  • Peter Clines – 14 (mystery, horror, paranormal); The Fold (thriller)
  • Michael Crichton – Sphere (psychological thriller); Jurassic Park; Prey
  • Philip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Ubik; A Scanner Darkly (police procedural)
  • William Gibson – Neuromancer (cyberpunk); The Difference Engine (written with Bruce Sterling) (steampunk); Virtual Light (dark humor, detective)
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Herland
  • Joe Haldeman – The Forever War series; The Accidental Time Machine
  • Frank Herbert – Dune saga
  • Hugh Howey – Silo series (post-apocalyptic)
  • Kameron Hurley – The Stars Are Legion
  • Aldous Huxley – Brave New World; Ape and Essence
  • P. D. James – Children of Men
  • Nancy Kress – Beggars in Spain
  • Larissa Lai – Salt Fish Girl
  • Ursula K. Le Guin – Hainish Cycle; The Eye of the Heron; The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Madeleine L’Engle – Kairos cycle (beginning with A Wrinkle in Time) (children’s, “science fantasy”)
  • Cixin Liu – Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (hard science fiction)
  • Katherine MacLean – Pictures Don’t Lie (stories)
  • Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven
  • George R. R. Martin – Tuf Voyaging; the Wildcards universe
  • Robert Masello – The Einstein Prophecy (historical fiction, mystery, thriller)
  • Julian May – Pliocene Exile series (high fantasy)
  • Anne McCaffrey – The Ship Who Sang
  • Seanan McGuire – Parasitology Trilogy series (sociological, under pseudonym “Mira Grant”)
  • Maureen F. McHugh – China Mountain Zhang
  • Judith Merril – The Tomorrow People
  • Elizabeth Moon – The Speed of Dark
  • Larry Niven – Tales of Known Space series; Ringworld and the Fleet of Worlds series
  • Alice Norton – The Time Traders (under pseudonym “Andre Norton”)
  • Christopher Nuttall – The Oncoming Storm (military, space opera); The Royal Sorceress (steampunk, alternate history)
  • Nnedi Okorafor – Who Fears Death
  • Malka Older – Infomocracy
  • George Orwell – 1984 (speculative, “social science fiction”)
  • Frederik Pohl – The Coming of the Quantum Cats; the Heechee saga (space opera)
  • Kim Stanley Robinson – Mars trilogy (literary)
  • Joanna Russ – The Female Man (experimental and not what you think)
  • Mary Doria Russell – The Sparrow
  • Carl Sagan – Contact
  • John Scalzi – Redshirts; Old Man’s War series

  • Alice Bradley Sheldon – Her Smoke Rose up Forever (stories, under pseudonym “James Tiptree, Jr.”)
  • Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
  • Dan Simmons – Ilium series (fantasy); Hyperion Cantos series (fantasy)
  • Neal Stephenson – Cryptonomicon (historical fiction); Snow Crash (cyberpunk)
  • Karin Tidbek – Amatka
  • Jules Verne – Journey to the Center of the Earth (adventure)
  • Thea von Harbou – Metropolis
  • Kurt Vonnegut – Cat’s Cradle; Slaughterhouse Five; The Sirens of Titan (all conceptual/unconventional)
  • Sabrina Vourvoulias – Ink
  • David Weber – Honor Harrington series (military); The Apocalypse Troll
  • Andy Weir – The Martian; Artemis
  • H. G. Wells – The Time Machine; The Island of Doctor Moreau; The Invisible Man; The War of the Worlds
  • Martha Wells – The Murderbot Diaries series (described as a fun read!)
  • Connie Willis – To Say Nothing of the Dog (historical fiction, rom-com, humor, time travel)

 

That’s enough to get you started, right? Remember, if we don’t have a book at the Williamson County Public Library, we’ll try to locate it with Inter-Library Loan. Enjoy – and be inspired!

 


Sources:

 

I sourced most of the woman authors and their works from this excellent list: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/50-sci-fi-must-reads-by-women

Book List: Libraries Rock!

by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

School’s back in session for Williamson County, and we’re looking forward to a great school year for our awesome teachers and students. But it’s been a summer to remember, thanks in part to WCPL’s Summer Reading Program! The theme was “Libraries Rock!” and you all – adults, teens, and kids alike – seemed to have a great time with it.

Nearly 70 adult patrons participated in the program, and they read almost 400 books among them! We gave out about 120 prizes, including lots of books (of course) and gift cards donated by beloved local shops and restaurants.*

This post focuses on a display aimed at our adult patrons, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to our amazing teens and kids. One teen reader alone devoured 104 books throughout the summer! (Do we have a future writer here?) And 2,300 children throughout the Williamson County Public Library system participated by reading, reviewing, and attending events. I’m so impressed, y’all. (The teens’ and children’s departments also handed out tons of prizes.)

Recommended method for reading 104 books in a single summer.

Our main floor book display stayed up all summer. In keeping with the Summer Reading Program’s theme, we featured books about readers and rockers, libraries and lyrics, bookshelves and the blues and – well, you get the picture. If you didn’t have the chance to make it through all the intriguing titles, we’ve got the list right here for you to peruse at your leisure. After all, summer in Middle Tennessee really lasts through September, right?


Biography & Memoir

  • Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello (B COSTELLO)
  • Sing for Your Life: a story of race, music, and family by Daniel Bergner (B GREEN)
  • The World’s Strongest Librarian: a memoir of Tourette’s, faith, strength, and the power of family by Joshua Hanagarne (B HANAGARNE)
  • Waylon: tales of my outlaw dad by Terry Jennings (B JENNINGS)
  • It’s a Long Story: my life by Willie Nelson (B NELSON)
  • Stand up Straight and Sing! by Jessye Norman (B NORMAN)
  • Soul Serenade: rhythm, blues & coming of age through vinyl by Rashod Ollison (B OLLISON)
  • The Universal Tone by Carlos Santana (B SANTANA)
  • Turn Around Bright Eyes: the rituals of love and karaoke by Rob Sheffield (B SHEFFIELD)
  • More Room in a Broken Heart: the true adventures of Carly Simon by Stephen Davis (B SIMON)
  • M Train by Patti Smith (B SMITH)
  • Hank: the short life and long country road of Hank Williams by Mark Ribowsky (B WILLIAMS)

Fiction

  • The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom (F ALBOM)
  • Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie (F ALE)
  • A Pleasure to Burn: Fahrenheit 451 stories by Ray Bradbury (F BRA)
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (F BRO)
  • Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (F CHA)
  • Tender: a novel by Mark Childress (F CHI)
  • The Archivist by Martha Cooley (F COO)
  • Last Train to Memphis by Elsa Cook (F COOK)
  • Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell (F COW)
  • Oh, Play That Thing by Roddy Doyle (F DOYLE)
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (F ECO)
  • The Geographer’s Library by Jon Fasman (F FAS)
  • The Camel Bookmobile by Marsha Hamilton (F HAM)
  • The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos (F HIJ)
  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (F HOR)
  • Open Season by Linda Howard (F HOW)
  • Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro (F ISH)
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (F KOSTOVA)
  • White Tears by Hari Kunzru (F KUNZRU)
  • The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai (F MAK)
  • The Librarian and the Spy by Susan Mann (F MANN)
  • Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann (F MAN)
  • Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey (F MCCAFFREY)
  • Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (F MCEWAN)
  • Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay (F MCKINLAY)
  • The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer (F MEL)
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (F NIF)
  • The Song Is You by Arthur Phillips (F PHI)
  • Never Mind the Pollacks by Neal Pollack (F POL)
  • Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx (F PRO)
  • Vivaldi’s Virgins by Barbara Quick (F QUI)
  • The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick (F QUICK)
  • Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia (F RACCULIA)
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz (F RUI)
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (F SETTERFIELD)
  • Rock Bottom by Michael Shilling (F SHI)
  • Say Goodbye: the Laurie Moss story by Lewis Shiner (F SHI)
  • The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler (F SWYLER)
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (F THIEN)
  • Music & Silence by Rose Tremain (F TRE)

Nonfiction

  • This Book Is Overdue!: how librarians and cybrarians can save us all by Marilyn Johnson (020 JOH)
  • Letter to a future lover: marginalia, errata, secrets, inscriptions, and other ephemera found in libraries by Ander Monson (020.8 MON)
  • The Vanished Library: a wonder of the ancient world by Luciano Canfora (026.932 CAN)
  • Library: an unquiet history by Matthew Battles (027 BAT)
  • At home with books: how booklovers live with and care for their libraries by Estelle Ellis (027.1 ELL)
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel (027.4 MAN)
  • Part of Our Lives: a people’s history of the American public library by Wayne A. Wiegand (027.473 WIE)
  • America’s Library: the story of the Library of Congress, 1800-2000 by James Conaway (027.573 CON)
  • Running the Books: the adventures of an accidental prison librarian by Avi Steinberg (027.665092 STE)
  • Books that Build Character: a guide to teaching your child moral values through stories by William Kilpatrick (028.5 KIL)
  • The Books that Changed My Life: reflections by 100 authors, actors, musicians, and other remarkable people by Bethanne Patrick, ed. (028.9 BOO)
  • The Little Guide to Your Well-read Life by Steve Leveen (028.9 LEV)
  • Bibliotherapy: the girl’s guide to books for every phase of our lives by Nancy Peske and Beverly West (028.9 PES)
  • Remarkable Reads: 34 writers and their adventures in reading by J. Peder Zane, ed. (028.9 REM)
  • Unpacking My Library: writers and their books by Leah Price, ed. (028.9 UNP)
  • Honky-tonk Gospel: the story of sin and salvation in country music by Gene Edward Veith and Thomas L. Wilmeth (261.5 VEI)
  • Taboo Tunes: a history of banned bands & censored songs by Peter Blecha (303.376 BLE)
  • Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: a history of the hip-hop generation by Jeff Chang (306.484249 CHA)
  • Dewey: the small-town library cat who touched the world by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter (636.80929 MYR)
  • Beethoven’s Hair by Russell Martin (780 MAR)
  • And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Our Vinyl: the Jewish past as told by the records we have loved and lost by Roger Bennett and Josh Kun (780.89924073 BEN)
  • Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt (780.92 HAU)
  • Waking the Spirit: a musician’s journey healing body, mind, and soul by Andrew Schulman (780.92 SCH)
  • Beethoven’s Skull: dark, strange, and fascinating tales from the world of classical music and beyond by Tim Rayborn (780.922 RAY)
  • Children of the Stone: the power of music in a hard land by Sandy Tolan (780.95695309051 TOL)
  • Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: what pop music rivalries reveal about the meaning of life by Steven Hyden (781.64 HYD)
  • The Chitlin’ Circuit: and the road to rock ‘n’ roll by Preston Lauterbach (781.6408 LAU)
  • Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: five years in New York that changed music forever by Will Hermes (781.6409747 HER)
  • Pilgrimage to Dollywood: a country music road trip through Tennessee by Helen Morales (781.64209768 MOR)
  • Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the rise and fall of American soul by Craig Werner (781.644 WER)
  • The Book of Exodus: the making and meaning of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ album of the century by Vivien Goldman (781.646092 GOL)
  • Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth by Kim Cooper and David Smay, ed. (781.66 BUB)
  • Corn Flakes with John Lennon: and other tales from a rock ‘n’ roll life by Robert Hilburn (781.66092 HIL)
  • Language of the Spirit: an introduction to classical music by Jan Swafford (781.68 SWA)
  • Go down Moses: a celebration of the African-American spiritual by Richard Newman (782.25 NEW)
  • Shake It Up: great American writing on rock and pop from Elvis to Jay Z by Jonathan Letham and Kevin Dettmar, ed. (782.4216 SHA)
  • Dark Midnight When I Rise: the story of the Jubilee Singers, who introduced the world to the music of Black America by Andrew Ward (782.42162 WAR)
  • Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: the story of pop music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé by Bob Stanley (782.4216309 STA)
  • I Hate Myself and Want to Die: the 52 most depressing songs you’ve ever heard by Tom Reynolds (782.42164 REY)
  • Hard Rain: a Dylan commentary by Tim Riley (782.42164 RIL)
  • Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: the making of a masterpiece by Michael Streissguth (782.421642092 STR)
  • Who Shot Ya?: an illustrated history of hip hop by Ernie Paniccioli (782.421649 PAN)
  • Songs in the Rough: from “Heartbreak Hotel” to “Rhythm nation” : rock’s greatest songs in first-draft form by Steven Bishop, ed. (782.42166 BIS)
  • The Beatles Lyrics: the stories behind the music, including the handwritten drafts of more than 100 classic Beatles songs by Hunter Davies, ed. (782.42166 DAV)
  • Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: a rock ‘n’ roller’s 12 steps to becoming a golf addict by Alice Cooper (782.42166092 COO)
  • Danny Boy: the beloved Irish ballad by Malachy McCourt (782.4309415 MACC)
  • The Soloist: a lost dream, an unlikely friendship, and the redemptive power of music by Steve Lopez (787.2092 LOP)
  • In the Stacks: short stories about libraries and librarians by Michael Cart, ed. (808.83 IN)
  • Leonard Cohen: poems and songs by Leonard Cohen (811 COH)

* Many thanks to our local sponsors, who provided prizes for our adult summer reading program:

  • Mafiaoza’s
  • Belvedere Commons of Franklin
  • Landmark Booksellers
  • Mellow Mushroom
  • Pueblo Real
  • McCreary’s Irish Pub
  • Frist Art Museum
  • Handy Hardware
  • Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant
  • Franklin Theatre
  • Schakolad
  • Nashville Pet Products

When The Toys Came To Life: A Non-Scary Blog

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

It’s ok to come in, Darling Reader.  There will be no mention here of Chucky, the murderous redheaded horror movie icon, or of any other scary incarnations of dolls (shudder) becoming sentient.  We’re only going to talk about the fun, charming toys that inexplicably develop intelligence and the ability to communicate.  If you are of the sort that finds it unbearably creepy to think about any toy becoming mobile and verbal, you might wish to bypass this blog and tune in to my next brilliant installment.  But if you’re brave enough, take my hand while I introduce you to a random assortment of toys who have something to say . . .

First up on our list (because you should know by now that I do what I want) is the magnificent, delightful, enchanting The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (J F DIC).  Edward Tulane is a gorgeous, arrogant china rabbit who lives in an enormous house, wears only the finest clothes, and feels that he should be admired by all for his singular beauty.  Anyone can see that Edward is headed for a heartbreak (nothing like the Winger song from the 1980s, but I couldn’t resist borrowing that particular turn of phrase.  Apologies, Kip.)  Through no fault of his own, Edward is sent on an odyssey in which he learns what it’s like to lose, yet to love and be loved again.  This is my very favorite of all of DiCamillo’s books, and one of my favorite children’s books; the lush, intricately detailed illustrations by award-winning artist Bagram Ibatoulline enhance Edward’s adventure so beautifully, and make this journey worth taking again and again.

Next on my list, and the reason for this month’s blog theme because of the cinematic release of Christopher Robin in August of this year, is Winnie-the-Pooh by Alan Alexander Milne (J F MILNE).  Winnie the Pooh, aka Pooh Bear, first appeared as Edward Bear in a poem in A.A. Milne’s1924 children’s verse book When We Were Very Young.  The first collection of stories about Pooh and his friends was Winnie-the-Pooh, published in October of 1926 and followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928.  Milne named the character for a teddy bear owned by his son, Christopher Robin Milne, who was of course the inspiration for the character Christopher Robin.  Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger were also toys belonging to Christopher Robin Milne and were incorporated into A.A. Milne’s stories.  Owl and Rabbit were created from Milne’s imagination, and Gopher was later added in the Disney theatrical adaptation.  Are you having a day, Darling Reader?  Make yourself a nice cup of tea and get a “smackerel” of something like Pooh would, find a quiet place, and spend some quality time with Pooh and his wonderful friends, before you go see the new movie adaptation.

Another book-to-movie-to-remake in this same vein is the Caldecott-winning book Jumanji by gifted storyteller and artist Chris Van Allsburg (J E VAN).  There are Judy and Peter, bored out of their little skulls and left completely unsupervised while their parents’ attend the opera, when they encounter a long, thin box that says JUMANJI, A JUNGLE ADVENTURE GAME, and also has an ominous, handwritten message taped to the box:  “Free game, fun for some but not for all.  P.S.  Read instructions carefully.”  There is an additional caveat in the game’s instructions, and apparently it’s a crucial one, since the writer of the note put it in all capital letters:  “VERY IMPORTANT:  ONCE A GAME OF JUMANJI IS STARTED IT WILL NOT BE OVER UNTIL ONE PLAYER REACHES THE GOLDEN CITY.”  Hilarity and highjinks ensue, and Judy and Peter survive the game just in time for their parents return home, with guests in tow.  They had a tremendous adventure that day with the game that became all too real, and learned a valuable lesson that day regarding the importance of reading the directions . . . but the sly, clever final paragraph of the book implies that young Danny and Walter, who are notorious for never listening to instructions, may not fare quite so well.

I often say that it’s a desperately sad irony that working in a library really cuts into one’s time for pleasure reading.  Hence, much time passes between my opportunities to read Beatrix Potter’s delightful, classic tales of little beasties, and I forget between readings about how charming and clever her stories are.  Such is the case with The Tale Of Two Bad Mice (J E POTTER).  “Once upon a time there was a very beautiful doll’s-house; it was red brick with white windows . . . it belonged to two Dolls called Lucinda and Jane .”  One fine morning while Lucinda and Jane were out of the red brick dollhouse for a spin in their perambulator, the aforementioned two bad mice, Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca, trashed the dollhouse out of frustration—they were hangry, to use a modern portmanteau—because they discovered that the appetizing delicacies on the dining room table were actually not edible.  Hunca Munca continued the rodents’ crime spree by absconding with a pillow, a baby’s cradle, and some of Lucinda’s clothes, and also some “useful pots and pans, and several other things.”  Reparations of a sort were later made by Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca for their vandalism and larceny, when he found a sixpence under the rug and stuffed it into one of the dolls’ stockings on Christmas Eve; and every morning before anybody is awake, she sweeps the Dollies’ house with her purloined broom.

Darling Reader, I’ve saved my favorite title for last.  I don’t remember exactly when a smart-mouthed, spiky-haired kid named Calvin and his very real stuffed tiger Hobbes entered my life.  I’m reasonably certain that it was not November of 1985, as I was a smart-mouthed, big-haired high school junior who was more concerned with my reflection in the driver’s-side mirror of my 1978 Camaro than with reflection on love, art, theology, mortality, public education, paleontology, environmentalism, and the repercussive effects of human free will.

Calvin and Hobbes was conceived by American cartoonist Bill Watterson and made its syndicated debut on November 18, 1985, and ran until December 31, 1995.  The strip follows the raucous antics and adventures of Calvin, a precocious six-year-old boy, and Hobbes, his quick-witted toy tiger.  The pair was named for 16th-century French theologian John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes, a 17th-century English philosopher.  Hobbes’ shifting duality is a defining theme of the strip:  to Calvin, he is always a live, anthropomorphic tiger; to all others (his parents, his archnemesis Susie Derkins, et. al.), he is merely an inanimate plush toy.  Darling Reader, if you have room in your existence for only one toy that comes to life, I beseech you to make it Hobbes.

That’s it for today, Darling Reader.  Tune in again next month for my meandering musings on literature and life.                                


Yeah, I did say there wouldn’t be any Chucky references in the blog . . . but I didn’t place any such restrictions on the appearance of his lovely bride Tiffany.  Also, any similarities between Tiffany and the author of this blog are purely coincidental, with the exception of the motorcycle jacket.

Rockin’ Reads For Kids

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

In honor of this year’s summer reading “Libraries Rock” theme, here is a random assortment of rockin’ reads for the young, or young at heart.  In absolutely no discernable order:

Who Are The Rolling Stones? by Dana Meachen Rau  (J92 ROL)

Sanitized for your protection, this book chronicles the meteoric rise and unparalleled success, five decades later, of this author’s favorite band.  As this is a children’s book, none of the lurid details of the many (ahem) colorful incidents that earned The Stones their reputation as the bad boys of the British Invasion are present.  (Also worth reading in this engaging series of biographies for elementary and middle school-aged students:  Who Is Elton John?; Who Was Bob Marley? (to be published in June 2017);  Who Was Elvis Presley?;  Who Were The Beatles?; Who Was Michael Jackson?; and many more music-related titles.)

Jimi:  Sounds Like A Rainbow by Gary Golio and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (J92 HEN)

A beautifully written and illustrated story of the phenomenally talented musician James Marshall Hendrix, later known to the world as Jimi, who departed this earthly realm entirely too soon at the age of 27.  His legacy lives on through his music, and his influence continues to inspire and electrify fans of all ages.

Hello, I’m Johnny Cash by G. Neri and illustrated by A.G. Ford (J 92 CASH)

Those four simple words were how this man with the deep, soulful, often otherworldly voice would start his shows after “I Walk The Line” became the number one country song in America, and the anthem for how this once dirt-poor man from Arkansas wished to live his life.  Neri captures The Man in Black’s legend in free verse, and Ford’s lush, detailed paintings of the Southern backdrop of Cash’s life make this book one that will be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

Music Lab:  We Rock!  A Fun Family Guide For Exploring Rock Music History by Jason Hanley  (J 781.6609)

If an alien landed in your bedroom one night and tasked you with teaching him/her/it about Rock & Roll, it would be fortuitous if you had this sensational book close at hand.  Written by Jason Hanley, Ph.D., education director at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this book offers an introduction to some of the greatest songs in rock history, provides anecdotes about the artists and the social and historical events at the time the songs were written, and provides fun lab-style activities that begin with the basics of rock and move through the soul and punk genres, and then cover dance and new wave.  Best of all are the frozen-in-time photographs and the recommended set lists.  I totally have to throw the horns for this book. (Don’t know what that means?  Look it up.)

How The Beatles Changed The World by Martin W. Sandler  (J 782.4216 SAN)

When the Lads From Liverpool burst onto the music scene in the tumultuous decade known as The Sixties, they charmed and excited millions of fans the world over, and they ultimately transformed and transcended the rock genre.  This compendium of their rocketship ride to musical stardom contains hundreds of stunning photographs that capture the rich, beautiful history of The Beatles.

Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music That Changed The World by Robbie Robertson, Jim Guerinot, Sebastian Robertson and James Levine  (J 920 ROB)

Penned by 4 multitalented music industry veterans, this very cool volume would look right at home on anyone’s coffee table and includes 2 CDs with tracks from such legends as Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Marvin Gaye, and Hank Williams, to name just a few.  The book pays loving tribute to twenty-seven groundbreaking artists whose innovations and creations altered the music landscape for generations to come.

Strange Fruit:  Billie Holiday And The Power Of A Protest Song by Gary Golio (J 782.4216  GOL)

At the time of “Lady Day’s” death from liver and heart failure in 1959 at the age of 44, she was heralded as one of the greatest female vocalists and jazz singers of all time.  Her best-selling record and signature song “Strange Fruit” challenged the attitudes of racism in America and was an important milestone in what would become the civil rights movement.

What Was Woodstock? by Joan Holub  (J 781.6609 HOL)

Well, duh, Woodstock was the sweet little yellow bird who was Snoopy’s best friend.  Right?  Charles Schulz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip publicly acknowledged in several interviews during the 1970s that he named the bird after the music festival held at Max and MiriamYasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York, over three days in August of 1969.  (Artwork from the festival features a bird perched on the neck of a guitar.)  My favorite part of this clever little book is the page of “Sixties Slang.”  You dig?

Shake, Rattle & Roll:  The Founders of Rock & Roll by Holly George-Warren  (J 781.66 GEO)

A whimsically-illustrated introduction to 14 of rock & roll’s groundbreakers and earthshakers, such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, and more.  In the words of Chuck Berry:  “Hail, hail, rock & roll!”

Rock on with your bad selves, and happy reading–


As always, the opinions and viewpoints expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and in no way representative of WCPL, its employees, or their parents who may have shouted at them to “turn that infernal noise down!” at some point in their lives. To that end, you may have to speak up a bit when talking to the author, because she spent many hours next to a Marshall stack in her flaming youth, and last week.

ROAR! Fiercely Favorite Dinosaur Books for Kids

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

With the recent release of Jurassic World:  Fallen Kingdom, the fifth film installment in the Jurassic Park series (F CRICHTON, the book from whence it all began, just so you grownup types will know) playing in a theater near you, what better tie-in than a blog about dinosaurs for those who are too young to get in to see a PG-13 flick?

Let’s start off with two options from the fabulous Mo Willems:  Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct (J E  WILLEMS) and Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs.  Everyone in town loves Edwina, and what’s not to love?  She makes excellent chocolate chip cookies, has spectacular fashion sense, but most of all, she is a great friend.  So when oppressive know-it-all Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie delivers a report to his classmates on “Things That Are Extinct,” no one really listens to him . . . no one except Edwina, that is.  Hoobie-Doobie pontificated at great length as to the truth about dinosaurs, and Edwina was shocked (or “shook,” in today’s parlance.)  But you know what?  Edwina didn’t care!  And by the end of his lecture, neither did RVHD.  He was so stoked that someone finally listened to him, and was just pleased to enjoy Edwina’s friendship, along with a batch of her famous cookies.  The subtle irony of the situation, combined with Willems’ signature artwork, make this a delightful read.  Added bonus:  cameo appearances by Willems’ Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny.

Further evidence of Mo Willems’ brilliance is found in Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (J E WILLEMS), his sly and hilarious adaptation of the classic fairy tale.  Behold:  “Once upon a time, there were three hungry Dinosaurs: Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur . . . and a Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway.  One day—for no particular reason—they decided to tidy up their house, make the beds, and prepare pudding of varying temperatures. And then—for no particular reason—they decided to go . . . someplace else. They were definitely not setting a trap for some succulent, unsupervised little girl.  Definitely not!”  Hysterical, I tell you.

Here we have the perfect explanation for those trying times when you can’t find your mascara, and you are certain that you put it back in your traincase, or the crayons are inexplicably scattered across the playroom floor, and you know you stowed them neatly in their container before going to bed.  What The Dinosaurs Did Last Night:  A Very Messy Adventure by Refe and Susan Tuma  (J E  TUMA) is a whimsical and imaginative tale that will appeal to those of us who occasionally scoff at following the rules.  See also:  What The Dinosaurs Did At School by the same authors.

Rounding out the picture book category in today’s blog are the numerous How Do Dinosaurs . . . titles by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague  (J E  YOLEN).  The problem-solution formula for this series helps children and parents or caregivers navigate various situations such as anger management (How Do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad?), personal responsibility and ownership (How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms?), social interaction (How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends?) and many other scenarios.  My personal favorite in the series is How Do Dinosaurs Go To Sleep?

For those times when you need more than a cute bedtime dinosaur story and want to expand your factual knowledge of prehistoric creatures, these two nonfiction choices fit the bill perfectly.  Dinosaurs:  A Visual Encyclopedia  (J 567.9 DIN) and Ultimate Dinopedia:  The Most Complete Dinosaur Reference Ever  (J 567.903 LES)  both contain profiles of hundreds of dinosaurs, including several recently discovered dinos. 

Darling Reader, wasn’t that ever so much better than watching a bunch of ill-mannered, poison-spitting, computer-generated dinosaurs?  Happy reading!

 


As always, the opinions expressed here are solely those of the author, who wishes she had a pet pterodactyl so that she could avoid flying via commercial airlines.  Also, I want to acknowledge a T. Rex-sized assist on this blog from my awesome friend Nate of Birmingham, Alabama.

June is African-American Music Appreciation Month

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Originally decreed as Black Music Month by then-president Jimmy Carter in June 1979, the designation was changed in 2009 to African-American Music Appreciation Month. In his 2016 proclamation, former president Barack Obama stated that African-American music and musicians have helped our country “ . . . to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all.” Hence, I bring to you in no particular order, a great selection of books from Williamson County Public Library Children’s Department celebrating “Lady Day’s” soaring vocals, the Motown Sound, Bob Marley’s plaintive ballads, Jimi Hendrix’s groundbreaking guitar playing, and much more.

First on the list for today’s magical musical journey is Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through The Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney (J 781.6440 PIN) “You ready, child? Let’s go.” Thus begins this beautifully written account of young performers who were catalysts for change in American music, and along with it, a cultural revolution. The 1960s were exciting and often turbulent times. For Berry Gordy, the man who has been largely credited with creating what would come to be known as “the Motown Sound,” it all started with an $800 loan and a vision of greatness. The year was 1959, and Gordy was on the brink of something amazing, something that would have far-reaching influence on music for decades to come. Drawing upon the talents of his family and local performers, Gordy created a record label for black musicians such as Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Martha Reeves, and Diana Ross, just to name a few. The rest, as they say, is history.

Next up on the recommended reading list for African-American Music Appreciation Month is Jimi: Sounds Like A Rainbow written by Gary Golio and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (J 92 HENDRIX).   A stylishly written and illustrated story of the phenomenally talented James Marshall Hendrix, known to the world as Jimi, who departed this earth at the way-too-soon age of 27. His legacy lives on decades later, and his groundbreaking music continues to inspire and electrify fans of all ages.

Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday And The Power Of A Protest Song by Gary Golio (J 782.4216 GOL). At the time of her death from liver and heart failure in 1959 at the age of 44, Billie Holiday (nee Eleanora Fagan) was heralded as one of the greatest female vocalists and jazz singers of all time. Her best-selling record and signature song “Strange Fruit” challenged the attitudes of racism in America and was an important milestone in what would become the American civil rights movement.

No reading list about African-American music would be complete without mention of the excellent books about black musicians in the “Who Is/Who Was?” series, which features titles such as Who was Bob Marley? (J 92 MAR), Who Was Louis Armstrong? (J 92 ARM), Who Was Stevie Wonder? (J 92 WON), and Who Was Michael Jackson? (J 92 JAC). The books in this series feature whimsical illustrations and side notes about the subject, and are so much fun to read . Check ‘em out! (OK, that’s my one and only pun for this blog, I swear.)

                   

Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (J 788.9316 AND) is a delightful, picturesque story of how a talented young boy from New Orleans didn’t always have the money to buy an instrument, but he did have the dream to play music. Plucked from a crowd by none other than the legendary Bo Diddley and allowed to play his trombone on stage, he was then inspired to form his own band. Today, Andrews is a frequent performer at the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the place where he got his first break.

Last but not least on my list of recommendations is Bob Marley: The Life Of A Musical Legend by Gary Jeffrey (J 92 MARLEY). Part biography, part graphic novel, this very cool book celebrates famed Jamaican musician Bob Marley. His body ravaged by cancer, Marley departed this earthly realm at the young age of 36, but his music and his message of peace continues to inspire people all over the world.


As always, the opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author alone, and not representative of any other WCPL employees. Ms. Parish can occasionally be overheard quoting Jimi Hendrix’s lyrics and belting out “Voodoo Chile,” but only when she’s home alone or behind the wheel of her car.

More Chills! More Thrills!

by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

Have you been on the edge of your seat, waiting for this next installment of my Suspense Spectacular? (Just answer Yes; let’s get an atmosphere going.) My previous post introduced a few big names in the genre. We also honored the predecessors of today’s hits. Today, I’ll start by focusing on female stars of the genre. Lastly, we’ll dig up hidden gems from authors you might not expect.

Writing for The Atlantic, Terrence Rafferty claims that “Women Are Writing the Best Crime Novels.” He says, “They don’t seem to believe in heroes as much as their male counterparts, which in some ways makes their storytelling a better fit for the times.” Without shying away from murder – be it most gruesome – the insightful women who have flourished within “domestic noir” write with “awareness of that inside-out sort of violence” that occurs so often in real life. (1) So, if you’re looking for a psychological edge, you’ll be spoiled for choice among women authors in this genre.

Incidentally, I learned that several male writers use female pen names within this genre. (2) That makes marketing sense, as their readers are more likely to be women. (3) Considering the history of women authors using masculine noms de plume – their only option if they hoped to be taken seriously – it’s ironic that men can now use women’s names in order to increase their own profitability as authors!

Don’t worry. This is not a blog post about The Patriarchy. But I hope to highlight some of the writers of this genre who actually are women – not men using women’s names. (Yes, I did double-check them all! My search history got a little weird.) You can find summaries of intriguing titles online.

Women of the Genre

  • Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train; Deep Water.
  • Katherine Neville, The Eight. This “historical thriller/whodunnit/magical story” paved the way for works like The Da Vinci Code, Kostova’s The Historian, and Mosse’s The Labyrinth. (4)
  • Tana French, The Secret Place. In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad series).
  • Amy Greene, Long Man. A small, East Tennessee community desperately searches for a missing toddler before the TVA floods their town.
  • Sarah Waters, Fingersmith. Readers love this Dickensian tale’s twists and turns.
  • Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl confronts the myth that “women are … naturally good,” a misconception that “robs [them] of any sort of will.” (5)
  • Megan Abbott, You Will Know Me.
  • Denise Mina, Garnethill (Garnethill trilogy); The Field of Blood (Paddy Mehan novels); Still Midnight (Alex Morrow novels).
  • Minette Walters, The Ice House; The Sculptress; The Scold’s Bridle.
  • Dorothy B. Hughes, Ride the Pink Horse; In a Lonely Place.
  • Donna Tartt, The Secret History. “[It’s] both an intellectual novel of ideas and a murder mystery without the whodunnit element.” “[An] amazing book that combines crime and Greek language and mythology with Donna Tartt’s beautiful writing style.” “[This] was one of the most unique reading experiences of my life.” (6, 7, 8)
  • Alex Marwood, The Darkest Secret.
  • Libby Fischer Hellman, A Bitter Veil. Reviewers call it “gripping,” “poignant,” “terrifying,” “viscerally effective.” (9)
  • Vicki Hendricks, Miami Purity. A raw, erotic story.
  • Liane Moriarty, The Husband’s Secret.
  • Tess Gerritsen, Playing with Fire. I love this review: “OMG Tess Gerritsen, give me my life back! I’ve never been so consumed by a book — let alone one about a…diabolical cursed violin score, toddler psychopath, and WWII-era Italy? Yeah, I was as skeptical as you probably are, but somehow it all works. I couldn’t stop tearing through the pages… What a whirlwind!” (10)
  • Renée Ahdieh updates the story of Scheherazade (1001 Nights) in The Wrath & the Dawn.
  • Alison Gaylin, What Remains of Me.
  • Jessica Knoll, Luckiest Girl Alive.
  • Val McDermid, The Mermaids Singing (Tony Hill series); A Place of Execution.
  • Margaret Millar, How Like an Angel; A Stranger in My Grave.
  • Sophie Hannah, Woman with a Secret.
  • Barbara Vine (real name, “Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE”) was a prolific writer of intense psychological thrillers and murder mysteries. Award-winning titles include Make Death Love Me, A Fatal Inversion, The House of Stairs, and King Solomon’s Carpet. Reading thrillers written by an English baroness sounds like a good idea to me. (11)

As you can see, there are so many incredible women authors to choose from; I found it difficult to stop adding names to the list!

Now, by “Deep Cuts,” I mean a few things: lesser-known works by famous authors, works of suspense by authors who normally write within a different genre, or even books you might pick up without knowing what thrills lie in store.

Deep Cuts

  • Agatha Christie sometimes falls into the “cozy mystery” subgenre, thanks to her Miss Marple But And Then There Were None is a deliciously frightening work.
  • Steven King, master of horror, also writes suspense that takes place in a monster-less world. The Long Walk and The Running Man are two examples, published under pseudonym Richard Bachman. (12)
  • Dan Brown wrote tech thriller Digital Fortress before finding fame with The Da Vinci Code.
  • Herman Koch’s The Dinner finds two families deciding how to deal with their teenage sons, who have committed a violent crime, over dinner. The evening starts off civil enough, but inevitably unravels. (14)
  • Gogol, Pushkin, Tolstoy, and others shine in the lesser-known tales collected in The Greatest Russian Stories of Crime and Suspense (Otto Penzler, editor). (15)
  • Roald Dahl, beloved children’s author, wrote some truly twisted short stories for adults. I have to say, it was eye-opening to stumble upon them as a young girl!

Nothing beats a page-turner when it comes to summer reads; and I’ve certainly given you a lot to choose from here. So come to the library, check out a book, and beat the heat with a chilling tale of suspense!

Read the rest of this entry

The Suspense is Terrible! (ɪ ʜᴏᴘᴇ ɪᴛ ᴡɪʟʟ ʟᴀsᴛ.)*

By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

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When confronted with a thriller, I used to think, “Here’s a novel that features guns, bombs, and lies. Probably some politics, too.” And while those elements might feature in some bestselling books, I now know how narrow my perception was. For I have probed past the whims of pop culture, and discovered some of the fascinating premises to be found within the realm of suspense, thriller, and crime novels. While this genre may not be new to you, I hope you’ll follow along with this two-part post, and perhaps leave your best recommendations at the end.

“Crime pays,” says journalist Anita Singh, writing for The Telegraph: “thrillers and detective novels now outsell all other fiction.” [1] It’s a broad category: these novels might be packed with fast-paced action (the Jason Bourne series), psychological drama (Gone Girl), or military intrigue (The Hunt for Red October). With high stakes and life-or-death outcomes, thrillers often become the basis for hit movies. And while supernatural or dystopian tales may have had a surge in popularity over recent years, thrillers continue to enthrall us because they could happen. Grounded in reality, often set in present-day, they let us imagine what life would be like if we got on the wrong side of a corrupt government – or a jealous lover.

But why would anyone want to do that? The late novelist and critic Mary McCarthy explained it this way: “We all live in suspense, from day to day, from hour to hour….” And, as writer Lisa Gardner adds, “…one of the appeals of suspense is [that we can] safely explore our innermost fears.” [2] In other words, we all live with a high degree of uncertainty in our lives. The more nervous, fragile, lonely, pessimistic, or uninformed we feel, the more we fear that uncertainty. When fiction addresses that primal fear, it allows us to take a breath, say to ourselves, “OK. What if?” and confront those worst-case scenarios. Fear often shrinks under scrutiny. And if we vicariously reach a satisfying solution through the deeds of our literary avatars, so much the better.

Today, we’ll start with the heavy hitters: the names that even I recognized! Then we’ll look at the classic works of literature that paved the way for those authors. Next week, we’ll scrounge up a few “deep cuts” – lesser-known works of suspense by authors who usually fit into a different genre. And we’ll highlight some of the women authors who are shaking things up in the realm of suspense.

Heavy Hitters

  • Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond Casino Royale is a classic. Fleming said, “While thrillers may not be Literature with a capital L, it is possible to write what I can best describe as ‘thrillers designed to be read as literature’.” [3]
  • Robert Ludlum, creator of the character Jason Bourne. Ludlum died in 2001, but the wildly popular Bourne series continues, thanks to a collective of authors who carry his torch.
  • Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series also continues posthumously, following the success of Larsson’s first three novels, beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
  • Tom Clancy created the Jack Ryan character in The Hunt for Red October. There are now more than 20 novels in the series.
  • John le Carré introduced British intelligence officer George Smiley in Call for the Dead, and he appears in nine other novels, perhaps most famously in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

The Classics

  • The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale by Joseph Conrad. A tale of terrorism, anarchy, and political intrigue, set in 1880s London.
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Although many modern reprints give this gothic work the appearance of a romance novel, it’s a psychological work that led to a rather faithful film adaptation by that master of suspense, Sir Alfred Hitchcock.
  • A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This is the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes, star of four novels and many short stories by Doyle. Fans of the BBC series Sherlock may find the differences – and similarities – amusing.
  • “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe. Before there was Sherlock Holmes, there was C. Auguste Dupin, Poe’s amateur detective with uncanny skills of deduction. Dupin appears in two more of Poe’s stories.
  • A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler (also titled The Mask of Dimitrios). Charles Latimer is a mystery novelist becomes intrigued by a dead man’s past, which leads to dangerous consequences. The story is described as a hybrid of “spy thriller” and “detective noir.” [4] There is a sequel, The Intercom Conspiracy.
  • The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. This is a “quintessential Gothic romance,” with a young heroine in both physical and psychological danger. Austen, Poe, and others were heavily influenced by Radcliffe. [5]
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. “Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, [it] is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.” [6]

That’s all for this week. Check back next week as I do my best to turn up some unexpected finds, and explore the success of women authors in this genre. Don’t forget to share your favorites (especially classics) in the comments below!

* A line you will recognize from either The Importance of Being Earnest or Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, depending on your tastes.

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