Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Fiddler in the Subway

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Title: The Fiddler in the Subway: The true story of what happened when a world-class violinist played for handouts - and other virtuoso performances by America’s foremost feature writer

Author: Gene Weingarten

Publisher: Simon and Schuster, July 2010

Summary: If you take one of the worlds best musicians and place him in the middle of one of the nation’s busiest subway stations and have him play his heart out, will anyone stop and listen? In this collection of sharply observed essays, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten shows why he is the only person to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing twice. Not only is he a brilliant writer (or, ‘investigative humorist,’ as he calls himself), he chooses to write on a variety of subjects from the ridiculous (trying to incite the French to be rude to him in Paris) to the sublime (witnessing the lengths to which a concerned citizenry will go in order to save a small bird trapped in a shop window.) Along the way, you will discover that the highest paid children’s performer in the D.C. area, “The Great Zucchini,” is a man whose personal demons might be his greatest professional asset, and you will meet the residents of Battle Mountain, NV, who might just live in “The Armpit of America.”

Like any great humorist, Weingarten is not afraid of pointing out his own shortcomings. Like any great journalist, he is willing to get to the root of his subject, even if what he finds there is chilling, disturbing, or deeply tragic. Many people believe Weingarten is the best essayist in America. Readers of this book would have a hard time arguing with that.

Who will like this book?: This is a great book for all general non-fiction readers – the essays cover a wide array of topics. And as Weingarten is a former editor, this book is also full of useful information and inspiration for writers.

If you like this, read this: How Did You Get This Number? by Sloane Crosley. I’ll Mature When I’m Dead by Dave Barry. Don’t Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Gendarme

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TitleThe Gendarme

Author:  Mark T. Mustian

Publisher: Penguin Group, September 2010

Summary: Emmett Conn is 92 years old. Recently widowed and suffering from a brain tumor, he is plagued with headaches and bad dreams. The dreams come to him like a movie being played out in his mind, scene by scene. They begin to feel more like memories than dreams, but a head injury suffered during WWI left Emmett with very little memory of the war or his life before it. In these dreams Emmett is a Turkish gendarme, a position that one would hold before becoming a soldier. He is known as Ahmet Khan, the name he had before entering the United States. His assignment as a gendarme is to lead a group of Armenian deportees from their homes in Turkey to a camp in Syria. He leads this caravan of sick and dying men, women, and children for several weeks. Most of these deportees, considered a security threat by the Turkish government, die along the way. Though he wishes that it were not true, Emmett soon accepts that these are memories of his past; a past in which he played a terrible role in an almost forgotten genocide. It is also a past of forbidden love and the search for redemption.

This story alternates between Emmett’s life as it was, slowly revealed to him in his dreams, and his life as it is now. A life filled with doctors’ visits, his daughters growing concern for his physical and mental health, and the awful memories that begin to reveal themselves. It is a story of the horrors of war and the dangers of prejudice. It is also a story of forgiveness-of yourself and those who cause you harm. This is a remarkable novel.

Who will like this book? Fans of historical fiction.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Wishful Drinking

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TitleWishful Drinking

Author:  Carrie Fisher

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, December 2008

Summary: Typically, the children of movie stars and celebrities grow up with an unusual lifestyle; one that only you or I could hardly begin to imagine. Carrie Fisher, daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, and perhaps best known for sporting her Princess Leia hair buns, takes unusual to the next level, and tells us all about her life journey and experiences in her hilarious and revealing biography, “Wishful Drinking”.  From playing dressup in her mother’s closet with her brother to getting drug abuse advice from Cary Grant to details of electro-shock therapy, pick up Carrie Fisher’s book today for a quick, entertaining and poignant look into this unique life.

Recommended by: Merry, Municipal Web Librarian

Red Hook Road

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TitleRed Hook Road

Author:  Ayelet Waldman

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing, July 2010

Summary:  A young couple is killed on the way to their wedding reception in coastal Maine. Red Hook Road takes the reader on a journey with the surviving members of their families over four summers.  Iris and Daniel Copaken are the parents of the bride and they are native New Yorkers who summer in Maine; they are “from away”.  Jane Hewins, the groom’s mother, is their cleaning lady who was never happy with the union of the young couple. Emil Kimmelbrand, Iris’ father, is a famous violinist who discovers that Jane’s adopted Cambodian niece is a musical prodigy.  There are many layers to this novel but rather than being complicated and confusing Waldman manages to build each story gradually and thoroughly.  The relationships between husband and wife, mother and daughter, father and daughter, mother and son, brothers and sisters are all so believable that you can relate to their tensions, their frustrations, their joy and their pain.

Waldman is a skilled writer whose descriptions of Maine and its inhabitants are so real that she had this reader yearning to visit this fictional place.  Although a story of loss and grief it is also a story of possibilities and hope. This book is a quick read that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

Whi will like this book? Readers of Jodi Picoult, Chris Bohjalian, and Anna Quindlen.

Recommended by: Claudia, Technical Services Department

Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food

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Title: Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food

Author: Paul Greenberg

Publisher: Penguin Group, July 2010

Summary: The title refers to four types of fish popular for consumption:  salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna.  I found this  book to be very well-written and researched. The author did not cop a “wholier than thou” attitude about whether you should or should not eat fish and was very much aware that his attitude may not be shared.

He made some very interesting observations about fish and the ocean providing wild food (and fish as wildlife, much as wolves, elephants, dolphins and whales are now considered wildlife), and not just exploitable beings. One of the most thought-provoking themes was the farming of fish, the commercial breeding of fish to bring out specific characteristics for human consumption and production, and the “necessity” of maximizing the protein potential of the sea’s creatures for human nutrition since land-based animals produced for food are rapidly approaching their maximum land-based potential.

The author made very clear statements about the ocean ecology as a whole, not just as it applies to catching and eating fish. He also approaches all of his discussions with the attitude of someone who grew up fishing and enjoys fishing both for sport and the food it can produce.

Who will like this book? Foodies, conservationists and some sports-minded people.

Recommended by: Mark Z., Guest Reviewer

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

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TitleMajor Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Author:  Helen Simonson

Publisher: Random House, March 2010

Summary: I fell in love with widower Major Ernest Pettigrew about six pages in! The story takes place in a quaint English village, where the Major’s brother’s sudden death and the propriety of a family heirloom spark an unexpected friendship with a local shopkeeper, Mrs. Jasmina  Ali.  His quiet world changes as he deals with his growing affection for Mrs. Ali (after all they share a love of literature), his yuppie, shallow son, and the various unattached ladies in the village vying for him.  It is a charming and endearing love story. The Major’s wry, witty humor combined with his chivalrous old fashioned courtesy, yet sarcastic jabs about modern situations had me laughing out loud. There is a gentle humor and a quiet lovely rhythm with a romantic twist that will appeal to both sexes. I kept picturing Sir John Gielgud delivering the Major’s lines! Such a wonderful debut novel!

Recommended by: Cindy B., Children’s Department

Swift as Desire

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Title: Swift as Desire

Author:  Laura Esquivel

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, August 2002

Summary: Swift as Desire focuses on Lluvia, a middle aged mother desperately trying to replay her entire life in order to understand her parents’ mutual anger for one another. Júbilo, her father, was born with an unmatched ability to communicate and understand through feeling rather than words, but is now confined to a bed and unable to speak due to Parkinson’s. Lluvia’s mother Lucha was a privileged beauty who gave up everything in order to marry Júbilo, but has now become cold and calculating. The story finds Lluvia desperate to understand her parents’ past and reconcile them before her father’s imminent death.

The story skips around in time, leaving the reader on edge throughout the entire book. The characters develop smoothly, and leave a deep impression. Nothing is as it seems with the family, which makes an unforgettable read. If readers are looking for another Like Water for Chocolate, they won’t find it here. Instead, they will find a brutally honest look into the closed doors of a marital relationship and a couple falling apart.

Who will like this book? Readers who are looking for a relatively short but still very engaging story. Those who are prepared to love and hate each and every character, sometimes at the same time, but still hope for a happy ending

If you liked this, try this: Like Water for Chocolate also by Esquivel

Recommended by: LB, Circulation Assistant