Tag Archives: America

One Summer


Title: One Summer: America 1927

Author: Bill Bryson

Publisher: Doubleday, 2013

Summary/Review: Reading this book is like having a friendly historian take you by the arm and walk you through a momentous summer in America a long time ago – 1927. Not just any summer to be sure, but a summer that included a long list of history-making events:

· The flight of Charles Lindbergh revolutionizing modern flight forever.

· Babe Ruth- changing the way baseball is played forever.

· Prohibition – making alcohol in the United States even more prevalent.

· Sacco and Venzetti – were they guilty? The evidence just wasn’t there.

· The invention of the television – “Commercial Use in Doubt”!!

· Talking motion pictures

And the list goes on.

Bill Bryson weaves the extraordinary story as he moves from one subject to another and breathes life into a time that I did not know much about-until now!

Who will like this book?:  History buffs

If you like this, try this:  If you liked Bill Bryson’s writing, he has quite a few other books – most popular titles include “A Walk in the Woods” and “A Short History of Nearly Everything”.  If you’re interested in more history, Erik Larson (“Devil in the White City”, “Garden of Beasts” is a popular historical author, and Vincent Bugliosi (“Four Days in November”, “Helter Skelter”) deals more with real crime.

Recommended by: Sue Z, Reference Librarian

If this looks like a book you’d like to try, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or to place a hold.


When We Were the Kennedys


Title: When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico Maine

Author: Monica Wood

Publish: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012

Summary/Review: When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico Maine by Monica Woods is an endearing memoir told from the voice of a nine year old girl. It is 1963 and the family patriarch is felled by a heart attack on his way to work at the local paper mill. Left behind are a mother and her five children including a daughter with special needs.

The author writes beautifully of the bonds between families, neighbors and co-workers. Her Uncle Bob, a Catholic priest and her Mom’s youngest brother, does his best to be the man of the family even when he is so devastated by their loss. In this memoir you are transported back to the early 1960’s and what is was like to grow up during this time like reading Nancy Drew, and riding your bike all over town, and making up games with neighborhood friends. It is also the story of a mill town and what happens when there are union issues and when the plants are sold to outside entities that have no ties to the town.

Woods is a fiction writer so the book flows like a novel. Although the author writes from a nine year old perspective it is not saccharine and sweet; rather the narrative is reminiscent of a more innocent time. The title of the book is somewhat misleading since the reference to the Kennedy’s is that Jackie and her children lost their father and husband in the same year that this family suffers their devastating loss. This book is written with humor and love and is a touching story of healing and families.

Who will like this? Memoir readers, people who grew up in the 1960’s, people who appreciate good writing.

If you like this, try this: ”Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood” by Alexander Fuller, “The Tender Bar” by J.R. Moehringer,” The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls.

Recommended by: Claudia, Technical Services Assistant

Does this look like a book you would like to try?  Visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or place a hold [link will open in a new window]

Hiking Through


Title: “Hiking Through: One Man’s Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail”

Author: Paul Stutzman

Publisher: Revell, A Division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan- 2012

Summary: All his life, Paul Stutzman dreamed of hiking the length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, a hiking adventure of 2,176 miles. Paul was not looking to be a section hiker, hiking small sections of the trail at a time, but to experience the Appalachian Trail as a thru-hiker, doing the hike from start to finish continuously over an extended period of time. Like most people, Paul’s dream was put on hold by day to day life. The challenges of paying a mortgage, raising three children and paying college tuition, car payments and working full time along with his wife. Paul and his wife Mary looked forward to retiring together and doing all the things that they never had time to do while working full time and raising a family. Unfortunately, life threw them a curve ball, and Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer. After four years, Mary lost her battle with cancer. Paul is devastated and does not know how to pick up the pieces of his life and to work through his grief. His dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail now seems like a way for him to heal. But how can he quit his job of 25+ years in the food industry and pack up and leave for several months? He is torn between his own desire to pursue his dream and the guilt he feels by leaving everything behind. Paul takes us on his personal journey of a lifetime. He quits his job and spends 4 ½ months on the Appalachian Trail. Along the way he experiences the kindness of strangers and the friendship of several thru-hikers. It is truly an amazing story of strangers coming together to share one common goal and the challenges they face in their quest to fulfill their dream. It is a very unique bond that is formed out in the middle of the woods. Paul’s remarkable journey was about more than just hiking. In the book, he states “In one month, I had gained more insights on life than I had in many, many years past.” This book will make you laugh and make you cry. You can’t help but become a part of Paul’s journey and anticipate the challenges he faces each day spent on the trail. His writing will touch your heart. There are moments when he questions his own sanity of quitting his job and walking over 2,000 miles. His faith and his sense of humor were of great help along the way. There were days when he questioned his desire to stay on the trail and reach his goal at the top of Mount Katahdin, but he never gave up. Paul reminds all of us that we spend so much time preparing for the future that we neglect to enjoy the present. He said his experience on the Appalachian Trail changed his life. I loved this book! It is fun, it is inspiring, and it is one man’s choice to take that first courageous step. As a day hiker, this book even had me thinking about a thru-hike. It is an amazing story of change and healing, stepping out of one’s comfort zone and a little trail magic along the way.

To read his blog and see pictures of his hike, visit Paul Stutzman at www.hikingthrough.com

Who Will Like this? Anyone with an adventurous streak. Anyone with dreams of hiking the Appalachian Trail (or any other hikes). Those who enjoy hiking, or just reading about it. Anyone looking for great inspiration or motivation to turn a dream into a reality. Anyone with a love of the outdoors.

If you like this, try this: “Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peak Bagging Adventure” by Patricia Ellis Herr, “A Walk In The Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” by Bill Bryson, “In Beauty May She Walk: Hiking the Appalachian Trail at Age 60” by Leslie Mass, “Halfway To Heaven: My White Knuckled and Knuckleheaded Quest for the Rocky Mountain High” by Mark Obmascik.

Recommended by: Laura, Technical Services Department

Does this look like your kind of read?  Visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to check if it’s available and to place a hold!

Bringing up Bebe


Title: Bringing Up Bebe

Author: Pamela Druckerman

Publisher: Penguin Press, NY 2012

Summary: This is less a manual on raising children than it is a comparison on how mostly upper middle class children are raised in France and America. Pamela Druckerman, a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, lives in Paris with her husband and three children. She started to think about “French parenting” after experiencing restaurant hell while on vacation with her first child, an 18 month old. Dinner was a horrifying, embarrassing experience involving picking up torn napkins and sugar packets, running after the child and leaving large tips to compensate for the mess left behind. After a few meals she noticed that the French families with children the same age as her daughter actually seemed to be enjoying themselves. The French children were sitting and eating, not shrieking, running around and tossing food and condiments on the floor. You can either consider this situation in the light of your own, possibly too relaxed, parenting skills or write a book about the differences between French and American parenting tactics. Pamela Druckerman decided on option #2.

I’m loath to condemn this entire country for sloppy, permissive parenting but I’m sure everyone knows that family with the kids that you just want to smack with a rolled up newspaper. I’ve never understood the concept of the child as the head of the household. Unless you’re contributing an income stream that far exceeds my own (and there probably are three year olds that do have an income stream that far exceeds my own) you might be a part of the household, but you are not the head. And that is a concept that does come through loud and clear in Bringing Up Bebe, the child is a part of the family unit, not the center. But is that a cultural concept or just plain common sense?

Two more desired attributes in a child that are mentioned in Druckerman’s book are the cultivation of self-reliance and allowing the child the freedom to learn on their own. I don’t know if there’s a term for “helicopter parent” in the French lexicon. Druckerman mentions her intention to childproof their apartment while renovating, including placing kidproof locks on every appliance and installing the type of oven door that doesn’t get hot. Her contractor, Regis, says the best way to childproof an oven is to “let the kid touch it once and he’ll quickly learn it’s hot.” Those second degree burns are a real learning experience.

I can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to raise a spoiled, dependent, self-centered child who is incapable of amusing themselves, a constant annoyance to everyone around them and will grow up lacking the skills needed to become an independent, self- supporting adult that you will be stuck with until you have the good fortune to die and then they will be cast homeless, helpless and clueless into the street to live out the rest of their miserable life eating from garbage cans and swilling cheap wine under a viaduct. But it happens.

Who Will Like This: Anyone interested in differing parenting techniques.

If you like this, try this: How Eskimos keep their babies warm : and other adventures in parenting around the world (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between) by Mei-Ling Hopgood Battle hymn of the tiger mother by Chua, Amy.

Recommended by: Sue D’Num, Library Assistant

Does this look like a book that interests you? Visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available or to place a hold! [Link will open in a new window]

The Indifferent Stars Above

Title: The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride

Author:  Daniel James Brown

Publisher: William Morrow, April 2009

Summary:    Upon hearing the words “Donner Party,”  it’s likely that most people remember the most sordid and sensational details of this tragedy. This new account of the Donner party tries to bring the reader past the taboo subject of cannibalism that has been associated with this ill-fated journey for so long. Yes, the facts remain the same, but our interpretation and understanding will be changed by reading this book. The author has gone to great lengths to shine a new light on the emigrants and their reasons for making certain decisions. He focuses his attention on one member of the party, Sarah Graves Fosdick, recently married and traveling with her family and new husband.

Using our current knowledge of the physical and psychological effects of trauma, Daniel Brown has set out to answer many of the questions surrounding the Donner Party tragedy. For example, why did the single men in the group fare so much worse than people traveling with their families? Why did the emigrants suffer the effects of starvation so quickly? In our recent past we have seen protesters on hunger strikes that lasted weeks longer without food than did Sarah and her companions. What psychological effects did the survivors suffer as a result of being on the brink of death for so long? Brown helps us to understand why certain choices were made and the impact these choices had on everyone involved. Imagine being on a camping trip without a tent, lantern, flashlight, stove, bug repellent, sleeping bag, toiletries, or any other amenity. Imagine you cannot bathe, brush your teeth, or wash you clothes and bedding for several months. Now imagine you are surrounded by mountains and several feet of snow and are surviving on leather shoe straps and boiled bones as your only source of food. It’s unfathomable to me. It’s no surprise to find that the Donner party’s fate was sealed by a man so greedy he was willing to divert these poor people from their original trail to Oregon to an uncharted (unbeknownst to them) path across a treacherous mountain range to his fledgling town in California. This is not a dry historical account but a moving and informative tale about brave Americans and their search for a better life.

Who will like this book?: Readers who like American history and adventure stories.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

The Whiskey Rebels

Title: The Whiskey Rebels

Author:  David Liss

Publisher: Random House, September 2008

Summary: This is a great historical thriller that takes place soon after the Revolutionary War. It follows the lives of two strangers, Joan Maycott and Ethan Saunders, as they try to make a life for themselves in a new and unstable nation. At the center is Alexander Hamilton, Treasury Secretary, who has become the enemy of both Joan and Ethan.

Joan and her husband Andrew have sold all they own for the chance at a good life on the Western Pennsylvania frontier. Whiskey, not money, is the currency on the frontier and Andrew has developed a new method of distilling whiskey that is sure to make the Maycotts and their partners a very powerful force. That is, however, until Alexander Hamilton proposes a tax on whiskey that the whiskey producers cannot pay.

Ethan has a different reason for hating Hamilton. Ethan blames Hamilton for the false accusations of treason leveed against him during the war. Accusations that cost Ethan his reputation and his fiancee. The real question is how far will these two people go to exact revenge on their enemies. Though this is a historical novel, the references to the fragile economy and manipulation of the stock market is interesting and timely.

Who will like this book?  Anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

America, America

Title: America, America

Author:  Ethan Canin

Summary: Ethan Canin has always been a wonderful writer, but this is his best book yet.  In fact, it’s one of the best books I’ve read – period.  Several reviewers have deemed it a “great American novel,” not only because of the quality of writing, but also because of its breadth and subject matter.  It is an elegantly drawn portrait of a small American town seen through the eyes of a boy who is at crossroads in his life, during a time when his family and home and country were at a crossroads as well.

Corey Sifter at 50 years old is looking back on that time in his life when he was growing up near Buffalo, New York, in the 1970s.  He had become involved with the powerful Metarey family, first as a groundskeeper on their grand estate, and then as a trusted right-hand man of the patriarch, Liam Metarey.  He was only a 16 year-old boy from a working-class family when it all began, but even then he had the gift of steady observation, not jumping to conclusions about the events around him.  As the Metarey dynasty becomes the driving force behind their friend Senator Henry Bonwiller’s bid for the presidency, Corey is asked to lend a hand and becomes the Senator’s driver and aide. As the campaign gains strength and Corey’s ties to the Metarey’s deepen, he finds himself entangled in a scandal that leads to the downfall of a powerful man and a family that means the world to him.

America, America is much more than a political novel.  Ultimately, I think, it is a novel about relationships and our place in the world, our place in history.  And it is a novel that spans the life, and perhaps the death, of the American dream.

Who will like this book?  Any fan of Richard Russo or John Irving.  Readers who big, multi-layered sagas about families, small town America, politics, love, etc.

If you like this book, try this:Anything else by Ethan Canin; The Race by Richard North Patterson; The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren.

Recommended by: Mary, Reference Librarian

The Nine

Title: The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court

Author: Jeffrey Toobin

Summary: Best-selling author Jeffrey Toobin takes the reader into the chambers of the Supreme Court to reveal the character and thinking of the nine people who decide the law of the land. This is a remarkable and riveting book – lucid and probing.

Also, author Jeffery Toobin will be appearing on Sunday, September 24th at 8 PM for the Open Visions Forum at the Quick Center of Fairfield University.

Who will like this book?: Those interested in the workings of the third branch of our government.

If you like this, try this: The Brethren by Bob Woodward. Supreme Injustice by Alan Dershowitz. Harry Blackmun: The Outsider Justice by Tinsley Yarbrough.

Recommended by: Cliff, Reference Librarian

Selected Stories

Title: Selected Stories

Author: Andre Dubus

Summary: For me, summer is a great time to read short story collections: You can pick up a book, read a bit, and then put it down and enjoy the sunshine. That said, I’m not a fluffy ‘beach read’ person – I like intense, realistic fiction. Selected Stories by Andre Dubus fits the bill perfectly. The name might be familiar to you – but this is not a collection by the celebrated author of The House of Sand and Fog, but instead by his equally-celebrated, if lesser known, father.

The most famous story in this book is Killings, which became a movie called In the Bedroom. Most of the stories are set just outside of Boston, and describe the escalation of small (and sometimes petty) dramas into something more profound, from a woman being stalked by her ex-husband, a cadet going through a brutal basic training exercise, a newlywed rejecting her perfect life by gorging on candy, and a devout young man discovering the joys – and limits – of physical affection.

Who will like this book?: Readers of short stories. Fans of regional fiction set in New England.

If you like this, try this: The Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III. Tooth and Claw, a collection by another American short story master, T.C. Boyle.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

A People’s History of American Empire

Title: A People’s History of American Empire: A Graphic Adaptation

Author: Howard Zinn, with Paul Buhle, and illustrations by Mike Konopacki

Summary: It is hard to believe that the groundbreaking A People’s History of the United States is almost 30 years old! Historian Howard Zinn’s classic ‘history from the bottom up’ retold familiar episodes from the point of view of workers, women, minorities and others who were traditionally left out of the American story. In this graphic novel, Zinn, fellow historian Buhle and illustrator Konopacki describe the evolution of what they call the American Empire – the U.S. interactions with and policies towards other nations, beginning with Native Americans and ending with the current war in Iraq.

The story is well-suited to the graphic format, and with it’s haunting vignettes of atrocities and injustice, it is a devastating critique of the American government. It is a serious book, but there are moments of levity and humor. Particularly charming is Zinn’s own story of growing up in Brooklyn during the Depression and how serving in World War II transformed him into a radical thinker.

Who will like this book?: Fans of Zinn and Kenneth C. Davis. Any history buff who likes to find out ‘what really happened.’ Conservatives be advised: This book has a decidedly socialistic/progressive bent.

If you like this, try this: A People’s History of the United Statesby Howard Zinn.  A Cartoon History of the Modern World by Larry Gonick.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian