Posted in Books & Film News, Staff Pick Books

What We Read This Summer

We missed the students this summer and had to entertain ourselves by reading.  Here are few of the titles we enjoyed.  Let us know if you have read any of these titles!

Manatee Insanity (Florida History and Culture Series)

Author: Craig Pittman
Location: Stack 3 / Call # QL737 .S63 P58 2010
Picked by :Laura Ray
Amazon description: As passions have flared and resentments have grown, the battle over manatee protection has evolved into a war, and no reporter has followed the story more closely than Craig Pittman. He’s flown with scientists trying to count manatees from overhead. He’s been on the water with the leader of the biggest pro-boater group. He’s observed biologists dissecting the animals and politicians discussing their fate.  Manatee Insanity provides the first in-depth history of the attempts to provide legal protection for the manatee. Along the way, Pittman takes a close look at the major and minor players in the dispute, from Jacques-Yves Cousteau to Jeb Bush, from Jimmy Buffett to O. J. Simpson, from a popular children’s book author to a federal lawman who dressed in a gorilla suit for the ultimate undercover assignment.

The Lacuna

Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Location:  Browsing- 1st floor / Call # Browsing PS3561 .I496 L33 2009
Picked by: Laura Ray
Publisher’s description: The story of Harrison William Shepherd, a man caught between two worlds — Mexico and the United States in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s — and whose search for identity takes readers to the heart of the twentieth century’s most tumultuous events.

Getting Mother’s Body: a Novel

Author:  Suzan-Lori Parks
Call Number/Location:  Browsing
Picked by: Resa Harney
Amazon Description:  Like a country quilt, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks’s spellbinding first novel, Getting Mother’s Body, is pieced together from rags: short and slanted scraps of narrative recounted by various friends and members of the hard-luck Beede clan of Ector County, Texas. These sad, wily, bickering voices tell the story of Billy Beede–poor, unmarried, and pregnant–and her dead mother, the “hot and wild” blues singer, Willa Mae Beede, who may or may not have been laid to rest with a fortune of diamonds and pearls in her coffin. When a letter arrives announcing that a supermarket is being built on the ground where Willa Mae was buried, Billy determines to dig her up and get the jewels. But Willa Mae’s embittered female lover, Dill Smiles, is just as intent on keeping the corpse in the ground. Deeper and richer than a typical quest novel, Getting Mother’s Body is also the story of an African-American family, of beauty winding like bright thread through long-held grudges, hopelessness, and greed. –Regina Marler

Hotel Iris

Author: Yoko Ogawa
Call Number/Location: Browsing
Picked by: Resa Harney
Amazon Description: Ogawa (The Housekeeper and the Professor) explores the power of words to allure and destroy in this haiku-like fable of love contorted into obsession. One rainy evening, Mari, a downtrodden 17-year-old who helps her demanding mother run a seedy seaside hotel, overhears a middle-aged male guest ordering an offended prostitute to be silent. In the days that follow, every word—both spoken and conveyed in surreptitious letters—from this man, a hack translator who may have killed his wife, gradually and inexorably leads Mari to submit to his every sadistic desire. Ogawa’s relentlessly spare prose captures both Mari’s yearning for her lost father and the translator’s bipolar oscillation between insecure tenderness and meticulously modulated rage. As this savage novel drives to its inevitable conclusion, Mari’s world collapses around her in both a terrifying bang and a pitiful whimper.

Backseat Saints [Kindle edition]

Author:  Joshilyn Jackson (coming to the Decatur Book Festival)
Call Number/Location:   Decatur Public Library
Picked by:  Liz Bagley
Description: After an airport gypsy predicts that Rose’s violent husband will harm her, Rose grabs her dog Gretel and sets out on a cross-country escape, following messages that her missing mother has left for her and unraveling family secrets.

Bossypants

Author: Tina Fey
Call Number/Location:   Browsing – 1st Floor.
Picked by:  Liz Bagley & Erica Bodnar
Description: Once in a generation a woman comes along who changes everything. Tina Fey is not that woman, but she met that woman once and acted weird around her. Before 30 Rock, Mean Girls and ‘Sarah Palin’, Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. She has seen both these dreams come true. At last, Tina Fey’s story has been told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon — from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence. Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.

Caucasia

Author:  Danzy Senna
Call Number/Location: Browsing – 1st Floor.  PS3569.E618 C38 1999
Picked by: Erica Bodnar
Worldcat Description:  A novel on children of mixed marriages. The protagonists are two sisters in Boston, daughters of a black professor and a white woman. One daughter passes for black and attends black school while her sister passes for white and attends white school. But the classmates know and when it comes to bigotry, equality reigns among the races. A debut in fiction. Birdie and Cole are the daughters of a black father and a white mother, intellectuals and activists in the Civil Rights Movement in 1970s Boston. The sisters are so close that they have created a private language, yet to the outside world they can’t be sisters: Birdie appears to be white, while Cole is dark enough to fit in with the other kids at the Afrocentric school they attend. For Birdie, Cole is the mirror in which she can see her own blackness. Then their parents’ marriage falls apart. Their father’s new black girlfriend won’t even look at Birdie, while their mother gives her life over to the Movement: at night the sisters watch mysterious men arrive with bundles shaped like rifles. One night Birdie watches her father and his girlfriend drive away with Cole-they have gone to Brazil, she will later learn, where her father hopes for a racial equality he will never find in the States. The next morning-in the belief that the Feds are after them-Birdie and her mother leave everything behind: their house and possessions, their friends, and-most disturbing of all-their identity. Passing as the daughter and wife of a deceased Jewish professor, Birdie and her mother finally make their home in New Hampshire. Desperate to find Cole, yet afraid of betraying her mother and herself to some unknown danger, Birdie must learn to navigate the white world-so that when she sets off in search of her sister, she is ready for what she will find.

Posted in Books & Film News, Staff Pick Books

Must Read This Summer: How to Breathe Underwater

If you have time to read one book this summer, we recommend How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer.  Yes it is the 2011 pick for the Agnes Scott College Common Read, so you may be thinking that we are trying to trick you into doing some “required reading,” but even if it were not the book that all the incoming students are reading this summer we would be strongly urging you to pick it up.

How to Breathe Underwater is a collection of short stories that will pull you back to moments in your life where you felt challenged, overwhelmed, confused and perhaps alone.  Don’t worry, it is not depressing.  Somehow it is cathartic and you are left satisfied that someone has finally put to words the feelings and experiences you have carried with you all these years.   Most likely you will be left wanting more.

McCain Library has four copies to check out on reserve at the Circulation Desk.  Since they are short stories you have nothing to lose.  If you don’t like the first one you read, return it.  We bet you’ll love it and find it to be a great companion on any vacation you have planned this summer.

To enhance your reading pleasure, we also recommend that you take a look at the How to Breathe Underwater LibGuide to find book reviews, interviews with the author, and much more.  Also, be sure to visit the Common Reading Program Blog.  There you will find reflections submitted by members of the ASC community including: Susan Dougherty, Jim Diedrick, Suzanne Onorate, and Kijua Sanders-McMurtry.  The Common Read Committee would LOVE to post your reflection on the book.  Just send your reflection to Casey Long at clong@agnesscott.edu.

Whatever you are reading, we hope you are enjoying your summer!

Posted in Books & Film News, Reading Habits, Staff Pick Books

Reading Habits: Svetlana Sinanovic

During the regular semester hours you’ll find Svetlana Sinanovic behind the Circulation Desk during the evening shift.  Every few hours she will walk through the library making sure everything is in order.  Students often quiet themselves as she nears because it is widely known that Svetlana is not afraid to shush anyone who is talking excessively loud.

When she is not safeguarding a pleasant library experience for all library patrons, Svetlana loves to read.  More than anyone else in the library, with the exception of Resa Harney, Svetlana knows the McCain Library Browsing Collection inside and out.  She doesn’t keep a list, but it is safe to bet that she has read more than 50% of the books in that collection.  To pick her next read Svetlana peruses the Browsing Collection shelves pulling out titles that appeal to her and reading the inside cover.   What she looks for in a book is a story about people that will highlight their lives and personal development.  Like an anthropologist or sociologist she also wants the story to help her understand people, places and societies.

Svetlana is currently reading Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. From the beginning of this novel Svetlana was captivated by the story. 

“It was a little weird,” she said “and not real fantasy, but not real life.”

Svetlana describes the book as being about a girl who begins to feel through food the feelings of those who prepared the food. She goes on to say:

“The girl in the story describes her family whom she loves but is sad because she knows what her mother was feeling.  You try to not to think about your parents and how they feel but she could not help it.  It is a sweet family story.”

The book also describes how the girl’s friends reacts to her when she shares with them her special gift.  Svetlana is nearly finished with this book, so it should be back on the Browsing shelves soon.

Svetlana also recently read Bogmeadow’s Wish: A Novel by Terry Kay. This is the story of one man’s relationship with his grandfather and his experience when he travels back to Ireland with his grandfather’s ashes.  Svetlana loved this book because it was partially set in Decatur, GA and one of the fictional characters works at Agnes Scott College as a professor.  While reading the book Svetlana admits she used Google frequently to find images of the places mentioned in the book.  This book is also in the Browsing Collection.

Continuing her role as a literary sociologist, Svetlana’s latest pick from the Browsing Collection is another local author Pearl Cleage.  The book is titled Just Wanna Testify: A Novel and focuses on an odd set of fictional characters Cleage has living in Atlanta’s own West End. Svetlana has never read Pearl Cleage’s work but is intrigued by insights this work may provide about life in Atlanta.

Clearly, if you are looking for something fun to read and need a recommendation Svetlana is the woman to ask next time you are in the library.  She loves to talk about books and lights up when she begins to share some of her favorite titles.

Posted in Staff Pick Books

Staff Pick: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Available in the Browsing Collection on the 1st Floor

Lately I am a sucker for any novel scheduled to be made into a film. I don’t necessarily like comparing the book to the film version; it is more that I hate watching a film and realizing that I missed reading a really good novel. Case in point: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. What a fun read that would have been!

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is slated to be transformed into a big screen spectacle in 2012 so I decided to give it a go. If you are like me you may be turned off by the cover, which looks like some Nazi conspiracy report. Also, the book jacket markets it as a story about kids forced to fight each other to the death in a government sponsored sporting event – not necessarily a topic that appeals to everyone. Fear not, this book is not as grim as it sounds. It is really a compelling tale about one girl’s personal journey and the relationships she has with other characters in a very confusing situation. The fight to the death competition just provides the back drop and the tension for the novel. It is a fun, quick read that kept me up til 3:30am on a Saturday night. (Please, don’t judge my social life.)

In terms of literary quality, Hunger Games is on par with Lemony Snicket, Harry Potter, Twlight and other novels-to-movies targeted towards the teen audience. It may not make it into the literary canon but it is a story that will take you into another world and is pure entertainment.

Do you have any teen lit suggestions for easy reading over the summer? Let us know.

~ Casey Long, Librarian

Posted in Staff Pick Books

Staff Pick: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

In this entertaining tale, a 9-year old boy, Oskar, is on a secret quest to learn about a key he found hidden in a vase in his parent’s room.  His father was one of the victims of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the key represents a final opportunity for the boy to learn about the last days of his father’s life.  Oskar is reminiscent of Eloise from the Kay Thompson children’s series.  Rather than limiting his travels to the Plaza Hotel, however, Oksar tromps through New York knocking on the doors of strangers whose last names match that of the name he found on the envelope that held the key.  The characters he meets are amusing and always kind.

The novel feels a bit like a fairy tale or a children’s story, but has much more depth.  The novel examines the different ways people  try to restore peace to their lives after a tragic event.  Self-harm, lowering expectations, and running away are just a few of the ways the characters try to achieve inner peace.  Despite serious undertones, the novel is full of laugh-out-loud moments that will quickly propel the reader through the novel.

If you loved the film Amelie and books like A Confederacy of Dunces, you will thoroughly enjoy this novel!  Also, if you are a fan of film adaptations of popular novels,  talks are underway to turn this into a feature film starring Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks.

This book is located in Stacks 3 under the call number PS3606.O38 E97 2006.

– Recommended by Casey Long, User Education Librarian

Posted in Staff Pick Books

Staff Pick: Just Kids by Patti Smith

Patti Smith won a National Book Award for this eloquently crafted glimpse at the phenomenal friendship she shared with the late artist and controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.  When she moved to Brooklyn in her early twenties, she was soon homeless, jobless and hungry.  Through chance, the two strangers met and survived together, fueled by a passion for art and writing, sharing a big city’s path of initiation.  The book is enriched by photos and facsimiles of notes they wrote to each other.

Smith captures the late 60s/early 70s NYC scene at the quirky Chelsea Hotel, where she and Mapplethorpe lived and interacted with William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.  Bookstores from pre-Amazon.com days helped Smith scrimp by.  At Max’s Kansas City, the pair eventually gained access to Andy Warhol’s table,  in stark contrast to their scrappy daily existence, supporting and prodding each other towards later success.

Most affecting in this tender and tough elegy, however, is Patti’s abiding belief in Mapplethorpe’s genius, no matter how painful to her.  “Before Robert died, in March of 1989, I promised him I would write our story, a story ultimately no one could tell but me.”  She has written a love letter to New York,  to naive eccentrics, to hustlers and to those trying to ascend to fame while maintaining humanity.

Just Kids by Patti Smith is shelved in the Browsing Area by the author’s last name.

-Recommended by Liz Bagley, Director of Library Services

Posted in Staff Pick Books

Staff Pick- The History of Love

History of Love

by Nicole Krauss

The History of Love spans a of period of over 60 years, taking readers from Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe to present day Brighton Beach.  Leo Gursky is a retired locksmith who is afraid of dying unnoticed.  A few years after her father’s death, fourteen-year-old Alma Singer finds herself in the heart of a mystery involving the book who’s female character is her namesake.  As the connection between Leo and Alma is slowly unmasked, the desperation and salvation of this unique pair is also revealed.  With off-beat characters, Krauss writes with a witty, sometimes sadly funny prose, and has an uncanny ability to embody two completely original characters.

– Recommended by Erica Bodnar, Access Services Librarian

Posted in Staff Pick Books

Staff Pick – Weekend Reading

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

From the first chapter I found myself unable to put this fast-paced novel down. Perfect for a weekend distraction from your academic reading, Tartt’s The Little Friend is the story of  12 year-old Harriet, a child coming to terms with the irrevocable knowledge of what evil is.

The story begins with the unravelling of Harriet’s family in small town Mississippi after the unsolved murder of her older brother. The story jumps ahead several years and follows Harriet and her best friend Hely as they decide to track down her brother’s killer, who they believe is a degenerate meth dealer. The novel reaches the suspense level of a thriller as Harriet and Hely find themselves in mortal danger on their path to uncover the truth.

The characters in this novel are quirky and fully realized with sharp detail and precision. If you enjoy a thriller with substance, The Little Friend will be truly enjoyable.

You can find this novel in the browsing section on the 1st floor, call number PS3570.A657 L58 2002

– Recommended by Samantha Tanner, McCain Library Reference Student Assistant

Posted in Staff Pick Books

Staff Picks

Rebecca

by Daphne du Marier

A haunting tale of romance and suspense, the second Mrs. de Winter narrates the events surrounding her marriage to wealthy Maxim de Winter and confrontations with a remote employer, a hostile housekeeper, and her growing obsession with his first wife, the beautiful, now dead Rebecca.

Picked by:  Catherine Neiner, Director, Career Planning