Medieval historian-turned-mortician Caitlin Doughty brings a unique blend of historical perspective, practical training, and newbie experiences to her exploration of modern death in the U.S. The essays in Smoke Gets in Your Eyes include some gory details, but also honest accounts of a new mortician sometimes fumbling her way in the space after death.
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Diane of Fiction/AV/Teen services suggests Now, Voyager…
Hollywood cranked out women’s pictures, or weepies, with excessive emotional fervor from the 1930s to 1950s. For many historians, 1942’s Now, Voyager starring Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, and Claude Rains, is the definitive weepie. Davis portrays Charlotte Vale, a dowdy Boston spinster, oppressed and driven to a nervous breakdown by a domineering mother. She recovers with the help of a kindly psychiatrist, played by Claude Rains, who runs a mental health sanitarium. After leaving the doctor’s care, Charlotte takes an ocean voyage where she finds self-confidence and love through a romance with an unhappily-married man, played by Paul Henreid, and ends up taking his emotionally troubled daughter under her wing.
For more movies featuring Bette Davis as the headstrong lead try…
This poetic gem translated from Italian is weighted with sorrow. Written in flashbacks spanning three generations, a girl shares the story of her Sardinian grandmother who has been in search for perfect love and declared mad as a result. Milena Agus’ From the Land of the Moon is a study of unreliable narrators, misunderstanding, and the reaches of the heart.
The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly on audiobook will appeal to almost anyone! Narrator Adam Grupper becomes main character, Mickey Haller, and brings non-stop action into this courtroom drama. His character voicing and pacing elevate this audio to an easy listen whether you are new to audiobooks or an avid listener.
Paging through Carnet de Voyage is like a virtual backpack trip through Europe and Morocco. Craig Thompson’s sketchbook travel diary depicts in simple yet telling detail the moments, individuals, and local color that made indelible impressions on him during a combination book tour and search for exotic new inspiration.
Find a hero in The Children of Huang Shi ! This true story takes journalist George Hogg behind the lines in war-torn China. With the help of a partisan leader, an Australian nurse, and a former aristocrat, Hogg attempts to save 60 orphans through their perilous trek over the mountains.
Nancy of Fiction/AV/Teen Services suggests The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
Laurelfield, a grand old estate north of Chicago, is the centerpiece of Rebecca Makkai’s clever novel. The book begins in 1999 with descendants of the well-heeled Devohr family. Zee Devohr and her husband Doug, both academics, are living temporarily in the coach house. Doug hopes to do research on an obscure poet who lived at Laurelfield when it was an artists’ colony in the 1920s, but Zee’s mother is surprisingly protective of whatever files and artifacts might be in the attic. The narrative travels backward in time, leaping to 1955, 1929, and 1900, revealing Laurelfield’s complicated past and its eccentric occupants. In this reverse chronological order, echoes from the past – and future – are well crafted, and the engaged reader will be rewarded. With its rich detail, fine prose, and dark humor, The Hundred Year House is a unique and satisfying read.
For more eccentric characters in grand settings, try…
David Margolick describes the lives of two girls in the famous photograph from Little Rock Central High School’s desegregation in 1957: a stoic African-American girl walking on the first day of school followed by a white girl, her face distorted as she screams racial epithets. Elizabeth and Hazel is a thought provoking and memorable exploration of how this experience affected their lives in attempts to reconcile the painful, traumatic experience within themselves and with each other.
Addie Baum, The Boston Girl, recalls her life story to granddaughter Ava. Born in 1900 and saddled with a difficult mother, Addie must overcome poverty, gender roles, and lack of education. Author Anita Diamant has created a lovable character who peppers serious subjects with humorous asides and grandmotherly advice.
It’s 1976, the last day of school in Austin, Texas, the music is rocking, the keg is tapped, and Matthew McConaughey is “All right, all right, all right.” Join the party in Dazed and Confused, the coming of age cult comedy film written and directed by Boyhood’s Richard Linklater.