Check It Out Category: Staff Picks

Cathleen’s Pick: Something Rotten!

Cathleen Staff Pick photoIn a hilariously meta production, Something Rotten! imagines the birth of musical theater as the only recourse left to brother playwrights trying to compete with bad-boy superstar Will Shakespeare. The Broadway cast recording shows off the talent, the fun, the puns, and Easter eggs aplenty to tickle the fancy of any drama geek.

Staff Pick: Greetings from Utopia Park by Claire Hoffman

Dale from Research Services suggests Greeting from Utopia Park by Claire Hoffman

Greetings from Utopia Park book coverGreetings from Utopia Park chronicles author Claire Hoffman’s personal experiences living and participating in the Transcendental Meditation movement. At age 5, Claire moves with her mother and brother to Fairfield, Iowa to join the followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This book is both the story of Claire’s childhood spent living in this community and a history of what Maharishi called the Global Headquarters of World Peace. Claire eventually rebels, moving away from the teachings of Transcendental Meditation, only to return later in life to examine and attempt to reconnect with her spiritual upbringing. If you have ever been curious about Transcendental Meditation and wanted to learn more about both the positive and negative aspects of this practice, you will find this book fascinating and enlightening.

 

Looking for something similar? Try one of these books!

Cover of Free Spirit Growing Up on the Road and Off the Grid

Free Spirit: Growing Up on the Road and Off the Grid
by Joshua Safran
A mother and son head for the road to find a utopia they could call home

by Augusten Burroughs
 A memoir detailing the unusual childhood of a boy sent to live with his mother’s eccentric psychiatrist.

 

A Tale of Love and Darkness book coverA Tale of Love and Darkness
by Amos Oz
Chronicles the author’s childhood in 40’s and 50’s Jerusalem.
Trancendence healing and transformation through transcendental meditation book coverTranscendence: healing and transformation through transcendental meditation
by Norman E. Rosenthal
This book discusses the benefits of Transcendental Meditation through stories of both ordinary people and well-known artists.
A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel book coverA Girl Named Zippy
by Haven Kimmel
 A memoir about growing up in small town Indiana.

 

Staff Pick: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan

Picture of EvanMarko and Alana were soldiers on opposing sides of an ages-long intergalactic war, but Brian K. Vaughan’s epic sci-fi comic Saga opens with the birth of their daughter. With incredible artwork and hilarious wit, this tale of building a family unfolds in a harsh and multilayered universe with a cast of colorful, endearing characters (including the large green Lying Cat, snarling “Lying” at any untruth). A counsel for readers: it is a graphic story, both that it is in comic form as well as its depictions of violence and sexuality.

Staff Pick: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Picture of LarryIt’s 1976 and a young African American woman, through a power she cannot control, is transported back in time to the antebellum South to rescue from death a distant ancestor, a plantation owner’s son. Dana is called back several times as Rufus grows from a child to an adult. In fact, Dana realizes that her task is to keep him alive long enough to father the daughter that is to begin Dana’s branch of the family tree, meaning her own existence is at stake. This challenge is intensified and more complicated by being a late 20th Century black woman thrust into the early 19th Century plantation/slavery culture. Will she succeed or will her family history be changed forever? Read Kindred by Octavia E. Butler to find out.

List: Our Staff’s Favorite Graphic Novels

Whether you are an avid reader of graphic novels or want to try one out for the first time, look no further than this post for a list of 15 of our library staff’s very favorite titles! This eclectic mix offers fiction and nonfiction, science fiction, steampunk, humor and the avant-garde. It is sure to provide more than a few gems for your reading pleasure.

For those of you just starting out with graphic novels, here are four good places to start:

Both Denise T. and Carol M. suggest Persepolis, the graphic autobiography by Marjane Satrapi depicting her childhood up to her early adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. Carol says, “I remember watching the Iranian Revolution in 1979, but Marjane Satrapi’s story gave me the perspective of someone about my own age who lived through it. The graphic novel format was an inspired way to show how society changed after the Islamic Republic came to power.”

 

 

 

Donna S. recommends the conclusion of U.S. representative John Lewis’s true story of his personal experience of the civil rights movement. Donna says, “I found March Book Three an interesting reminder of the early civil rights movement in America. This is a National Book Award winner.”

 

 

 

 

Donna C. recommends the YA title, Thoreau at Walden by John Porcellino, which uses Thoreau’s own writings to tell the story of his time experimenting with living an unconventional life in the woods. Donna says, “This is a lovely and very accessible way to approach both the writing of Thoreau and the graphic novel medium, for teens and adults alike.”

 

 

 

 

Anne S. recommends The Gettysburg Address by Jonathan Hennessey. “Hennessey uses text and pictures to illustrate the complexities and beauty in the Gettysburg Address while also giving a clear and concise overview of the driving forces which helped to develop the United States during its first 150 years. P.S. It’s also a great graphic novel for the person who ‘does not read’ graphic novels!”

 

 

 

If you’re looking for something further off the beaten path, try one of these staff suggestions:

Cathleen B. recommends Descender, Book 1, by Jeff Lemire, the sci-fi story of a robot boy whose life is in jeopardy in a universe where androids are forbidden. Cathleen says, “This series start is inventive and suspenseful and sad and sweet, but the gorgeous watercolor art is what truly won my heart.”

 

 

 

 

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman is a metaphysical tale of mythology and history, following the mistaken capture and imprisonment of Dream, who controls the dream world. Janine S. recommends this, saying, “It’s smart, emotional, and relevant with some of the greatest and most interesting characters I’ve encountered in all of my reading.”

 

 

 

 

Kelda G. suggests Stitches by David Small. “A best-selling and highly regarded children’s book illustrator comes forward with this unflinching graphic memoir. Remarkable and intensely dramatic, Stitches tells the story of a fourteen-year-old boy who awakes one day from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he has been transformed into a virtual mute―a vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot. From horror to hope, Small proceeds to graphically portray an almost unbelievable descent into adolescent hell and the difficult road to physical, emotional, and artistic recovery.”

 

 

 

Joe C. recommends yet another science fiction story, Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn. This is a story about a world in which only two males exist, Yorrick Brown and his pet monkey. Joe says, “It is a brilliant and clever alternate history premise: what would happen if all the men died?”

 

 

 

Mary S. suggests Adulthood Is a Myth by Sarah Anderson. “A very funny portrayal of the everyday occurrences that plague us.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chelsea L. says, “My more recent favorite graphic novel is The Flintstones by Mark Russell. It is remodeled for the 21st century, hysterically funny, and grown-up version of the quirky Flintstones and their town of Bedrock.”

 

 

 

 

Anthony A. suggests Blankets by Craig Thompson. “At once powerful and tender, this beautifully rendered autobiographical coming-of-age epic graphic novel grapples with the intense emotional transformation of a young man experiencing first love, disillusionment, spiritual awakening, and the growing realization and acceptance of all the things that are beyond his control.”

 

 

Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke is the suggestion of Jenny M. “While there were moments where I could see myself so vividly in Radtke’s memoir and it felt strange to see pieces of me on someone else’s page, this was also an impressionable exercise in peeking into seeing how someone else comprehends and makes sense of life.”

 

 

Mary D. suggests Grandville by Bryan Talbot, saying, “Grandville is a steampunk, Victorian noir, suspenseful graphic novel full of anthropomorphic characters and beautifully drawn artwork.”

 

 

 

 

 

Claire B.’s favorite is Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown. Claire says, “I thought this book was beautifully illustrated and a thorough, fascinating explanation of what happened in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.”

 

 

 

 

David Mazzuchelli’s Asterios Polyp follows a middle-aged teacher and architect who relocates from New York City to Midwestern small town. John M. recommends it “because of the elegant way form mirrors theme throughout.”

Staff Pick: Rise & Shine, Benedict Stone by Phaedra Patrick

Picture of DonnaBenedict owns a gem stone shop in England. His life is quite complacent; business is slow and he is estranged from his wife and brother. Everything changes when Gemma, his niece from America, arrives on his doorstep. As the story progresses, there are frequent references to gem stones, their meanings and how they influence the story, such as how rose quartz means love, peace and appreciation. Try Rise and Shine Benedict Stone by Paedra Patrick for a charming, uplifting story.

Staff Pick: The Movies of Damien Chazelle

Picture of DianeDamien Chazelle, the talented director and screenwriter of only three feature films to date, has amassed an astonishing number of awards and nominations, including Best Picture Academy Award nominations for both Whiplash and La La Land.  At age 32 Chazelle is the youngest person in history to win a Best Director Oscar for La La Land.

Check out his 2009 directing and screenwriting debut, the musical Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench.

Staff Pick: The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

Jenny from Fiction/AV/Teen suggests The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

The Hopefuls book coverBeth’s husband Matt accepts a job with President Barack Obama’s staff, relocating the couple from Wisconsin to Washington D.C. While this head-first plunge into politics has ignited a new dream and passion for Matt, Beth is left adrift and skeptical of this move. She has no job ambition, no friends, and despises the political scene. Plus, now they live close to her in-laws who she does not get along with. However, there is hope as Matt and Beth get close to another White House staffer, Jimmy Dillon, and his wife Ashleigh. The couples hit it off and become inseparable. But as Jimmy progressively moves up in his career, their friendship must start weathering new tensions of jealousy, competitiveness, and resentment.

If you have in-laws you’re less than happy about, if you have interest in the social side of politics, if the tension of compromising to pursue dreams in relationships draws you, and/or you just want to read a solid contemporary piece of fiction where the characters are very much human with all of their error and grace, The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close is for you! Try it in audio! The audiobook, narrated by Jorjeana Marie, makes for an incredible reading experience.

For more books of new beginnings and the drama of political social life, try…

Eighteen Acres book coverEighteen Acres by Nicolle Wallace
Three women–White House chief of staff Melanie Kingston, White House correspondent Dale Smith, and president Charlotte Kramer–struggle through a year filled with lies, tragedies, and difficult decisions.
Trudy Hopedale book coverTrudy Hopedale by Jeffrey Frank
The follies and foibles of the nation’s capital are seen from the perspective of quintessential Washington hostess Trudy Hopedale and her social-climbing friend, Donald Frizzâe, during the summer and fall of 2000.

 

Piece of Mind book coverPiece of Mind by Michelle Adelman
Unable to relate to people or hold a job after suffering a head injury in early childhood, talented artist Lucy is forced out of her protective Jewish home and into a New York City studio apartment with her college-age brother, where she struggles to adapt to life without a safety net.
American Wife book coverAmerican Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
When her husband is elected president of the United States, Alice Blackwell finds her new life as first lady increasingly tumultuous as she reflects on the privileges and difficulties of her position as her private beliefs conflict with her public responsibilities.
The Senator's Wife book coverThe Senator’s Wife by Sue Miller
Two unconventional women, neighbors in adjacent New England townhouses–Meri Fowler, pregnant, newly married, and discovering the gap between reality and expectation, and Delia Naughton, wife of a notoriously unfaithful liberal senator–confront the costs and challenges of love.