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Celebrate Knowledge

Brainiac book coverQuestion:  Can you name the firm whose seventy thousand seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year?  (Hint:  they are hard at work right now!)

April 13-19 is National Library Week, and the theme is “Join the Circle of Knowledge”.  What better way to celebrate than to take a trip into Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs?  Author Ken Jennings uses the story of his record-breaking 74 wins on the popular game show Jeopardy! as a framework by which to explore the history and fascination of trivia contests.  His style is light and personable, and his enthusiasm for the world of trivia lovers is contagious.  Jennings even peppers each chapter with questions, and the reader cannot help but feel a little smarter just for following along.  Moreover, if you can name H&R Block as the answer to the question above, then you already know something Jennings didn’t when he was finally beaten by another Jeopardy! contestant.

Heavyweight Prize Writing — the 2008 Pulitzers

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao book coverCongratulations to the 2008 Pulitzer Prize winners!  The honor in fiction was awarded to Junot Diaz for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a novel that has continued to amass both critical and popular acclaim since its debut last fall.  In the history category, Daniel Walker Howe took the Prize for What God Hath Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 – 1848.  Biographer John Matteson has been named a winner for Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father, as has Saul Friedlander for The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945.  Also newsworthy is the awarding of a special music citation to Bob Dylan, which lauded his “profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”

Rhett Butler’s People

Rhett butler's People book coverBarb of Fiction/AV/Teen Services recommends Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig:

Rhett Butler’s People is an intriguing companion to Gone with the Wind.  It’s an epic story which chronicles the life and times of the adventurous and romantic hero, Rhett Butler.  Some of the people who shape Rhett’s life include his uncompromising, mean-spirited father, Rhett’s devoted sister Rosemary, his best friend and one-time slave, Tunis Bonneau, former love Belle Watling and, of course, the love of Rhett’s life, the passionate Scarlett O’Hara.  By all accounts, Gone with the Wind is so legendary that it seems untouchable.  However, Donald McCaig’s adaptation of the beloved Margaret Mitchell saga is a worthy story that never questions the essence of the characters:  family, land, country, and, most of all, love.

Charlton Heston, an Epic Life

Charlton Heston actor photo“If you need a ceiling painted, a chariot race run, a city besieged, or the Red Sea parted, you think of me.”    — Charlton Heston

Evanston-born Charlton Heston, Oscar winner for his star turn in Ben Hur, died Saturday, April 5, 2008.  Best known for heroic roles in grand epics such as The Ten Commandments and El Cid, Heston brought intensity and presence to his work both on screen and off.  A World War II Army veteran, he visited troops during the Vietnam War and in 2003 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.  Author Patrick O’Brian counted Heston as a friend and even envisioned him one day playing his title character Captain Jack Aubrey.  A writer himself, Heston penned his autobiography In the Arena as well as a book entitled To Be a Man: Letters to My Grandson.  Among his many other film credits are The Greatest Show on Earth, Julius Caesar, and The Planet of the Apes.

The First Patient

The First Patient book coverWhat if those closest to the President of the United States couldn’t be trusted with his safety?  In The First Patient, strange episodes have begun to plague the country’s leader, and his personal physician has mysteriously disappeared.  Dr. Gabe Singleton, an old friend of the President’s, is asked to take the job.  Not long after arriving in Washington, he realizes that his college buddy is in the midst of a health crisis that could have national ramifications.  Gabe must balance dedication to his patient with responsibility to his country, and attacks on his own life only add to his suspicions.  Michael Palmer crafts a tense thriller that explores frightening scientific abuses and the vulnerability of the leader of the free world.

Blue Heart Blessed

Blue Heart Blessed book coverHow does a caring, intelligent, and capable woman cope with being jilted ten days before her dream wedding?  If she is Daisy Murien, she opens a shop for specially-selected second-hand wedding gowns!  Blue Heart Blessed by Susan Meissner is the story of how one recently “disengaged” woman creatively tries to keep her romantic outlook hopeful while coming to terms with pain and disappointment.  Sewn into the fabric of each dress she sells is a tiny satin heart which has been given a special blessing for the new bride.  Repeatedly finding reasons not to sell the perfect gown she never wore, Daisy is a heroine who invites both sympathy and amusement.  Inspirational fiction written with cleverness and a light touch, Blue Heart Blessed celebrates one woman’s personal journey with real heart.

On Top of Spaghetti

On Top of Spaghetti book coverIs there anyone who doesn’t love a good plate of pasta?  Prepare to take your enjoyment to the next level with On Top of Spaghetti…Macaroni, Linguine, Penne, and Pasta of Every Kind.  Renowned chefs George Germon and Johanne Killeen and  share their passion for creating and recreating pasta dishes in this exceptional cookbook.  Whether you are looking for a new taste experience or merely a way to spice up an old favorite, On Top of Spaghetti offers uncomplicated, inventive recipes made with a variety of common ingredients.  Complete with cheerful commentary and occasional anecdotes, each dish is presented with clear directions and helpful serving suggestions.  You may never go out for Italian food again.

A Flaw in the Blood

A Flaw in the Blood book coverConspiracy, blackmail, intrigue, even murder – and Queen Victoria is in the center of it all.  In a new mystery by Stephanie Barron, Irish barrister Patrick Fitzgerald is returning from a summoned audience with the Queen herself when the royal carriage is viciously attacked.  Both he and his ward, young Dr. Georgiana Armistead, have episodes in their pasts which may offer clues, and they race to make sense of the escalating violence before they can be silenced.  Whether a thrilling pursuit through the London slums or a restrained gathering in the royal chambers, A Flaw in the Blood boasts Barron’s trademarks:  impressive period detail and a sense of the sinister amidst cultured society.

The King of Kong

King of Kong DVD coverGranted, it is not unusual for a film to feature contests in which likable underdog players compete in order to prove themselves.  What is unique about the 2007 Picturehouse Entertainment documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters  is that the game under scrutiny is not basketball or football, but Donkey Kong.  Yes, this ubiquitous arcade game from the 1980s serves as backdrop to an intense rivalry between longtime champion Billy Mitchell and earnest challenger Steve Wiebe.  Eminently watchable, The King of Kong is overflowing with tension, humor, heartbreak, and triumph.  Even those who care little for video games will find themselves invested in Wiebe’s attempts to earn recognition and respect.

Cry, the Beloved Country

Cry the Beloved Country book coverFirst published in 1948, Cry, the Beloved Country remains one of the most beautiful and stirring books of the 20th century.  The story of a divided and hurting South Africa, Alan Paton’s narrative focuses on two fathers:  a rural priest and a wealthy landowner.  Reverend Stephen Kumalo must journey from his native district to search for his sister and his son, but what he discovers is agony and catastrophe.  Meanwhile, James Jarvis grapples with the senseless death of a son he never fully understood.  In Paton’s own words, Cry, the Beloved Country “is a song of love for one’s far distant country…it is a story of the beauty and terror of human life.”  Both simple and poetic, it is ultimately a story of hope.