Month: November 2011

Check It Out Blog

Diane’s Pick: North by Northwest

Diane D.“Now you listen to me, I’m an advertising man, not a red herring. I’ve got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders that depend upon me, and I don’t intend to disappoint them all by getting myself ‘slightly’ killed.” Nobody says it like Cary Grant in Hitchcock’s thriller, North by Northwest!


When the Big Easy Isn’t

Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead book coverNo one really wants their mysteries solved.  This is one of the bits of wisdom we learn from Claire DeWitt, a private investigator just recovering from a breakdown.  A case brings her back to New Orleans, where she was trained in the art of Détection.  Her methods are unorthodox, to say the least, and often involve marijuana, dreams, hard work, and I Ching divination.  Still, Sara Gran’s new heroine is as hard-boiled as any noir detective from the 50s, and that helps when tracking down lies in a city still recovering from disaster.  Carol Monda brings to life the first-person narration in a dry, husky, world-weary voice that is perfect for the debut of Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead.


An Adult Adventure Through Europe

The Sinner's Grand Tour book coverWith legendary libertines like Lord Byron, Casanova and the Marquis De Sade cavorting through the past, it is unfortunate to think that some people still believe history to be inevitably boring. In The Sinner’s Grand Tour:  A Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe, Tony Perrottet explores the mostly forgotten, clandestine destinations of Europe. There are famed brothels, naughty furniture of the royals, a Parisian “erotic archaeologist,” dungeons, secretive museums of sexually explicit material and even a Vatican bathroom that is covered in pornographic images painted by Raphael. If you like Bill Bryson, but want a decidedly more adult travelogue, check out The Sinner’s Grand Tour.

A Magical Story

The Night Circus audiobook coverThe celebrated voice of Harry Potter has found a new story to enchant our imagination. With characteristic delight and drama, audiobook virtuoso Jim Dale reads The Night Circus, a title that is already appearing on multiple Best of the Year lists. Erin Morgenstern’s debut conjures a mesmerizing tale of dueling magicians and star-crossed love.  With the opening words, “The circus arrives without warning,” we know we are in for a treat. Little does the public realize that Le Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams) is not only a place of wonder but also a test of strength and skill for two young performers. Put on a bright red scarf and revel in the spectacle of The Night Circus.

National Book Award Winners

Salvage the Bones book cover“You owe it to yourself to read this book,” wrote Library Journal, and the judges emphatically agree. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn West is the newly announced winner of the National Book Award for Fiction. In this powerful story, a pregnant 14-year-old living in dire poverty tells of her family’s struggle to prepare their rural Mississippi property for a hurricane that happens to be called Katrina. Stephen Greenblatt took top Nonfiction honors for The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, and Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out & Back Again won in the Young People’s Literature category. Click here for a complete list of finalists and interviews with the authors.

LISTS: Southern Plantations

Gone with the Wind movie posterWhen you think of Southern plantations in popular culture, the first is bound to be Tara from Gone with the Wind. But there is so much more to historical Southern fiction than that!

Frankly, Scarlett, if you want books and movies with palatial Antebellum architecture, un-relenting hospitality, curious hauntings, Southern belles and a sight of the societal effects of the Civil War in the South, click here.

The History of Black Photographers 1840 to Present

Reflections in Black book cover“While historians have used literary documents to depict Blacks as helpless subjects, photographs allow us to see many of them as confident human beings. Occupation, income, education, and similar variables are important for assessing accomplishments and status…” said social historian Douglas Daniels in the introduction to Deborah Willis’ phenomenal photographic history, Reflections in Black. Willis is a former Guggenheim and MacArthur fellow who curated the exhibition, Reflections in Black, at the Smithsonian Institute. This exhibition, which has now become a book with almost 600 high-quality photos from luminaries such as James Presley Ball, James Van Der Zee, Gordon Parks and Carrie Mae Weems, expands cultural awareness and historical consciousness of the African-American experience in the United States.

Staff Picks: Mysteries

In the Woods book coverAre you burnt out from reading the same old, same old mystery authors? Are you sick of Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dennis Lehane? Try something new! Don’t know where to start? How about here? Follow the link to peruse our staff’s mystery recommendations.