Month: November 2012

Check It Out Blog

LISTS: Appalachian Nonfiction

Stand Up That Mountain book coverAppalachia is a region that stretches from the southern tip of New York state to mid-Alabama. It follows the Appalachian Mountains and is known for its fiercely independent, inventive inhabitants of mostly Scots-Irish descent.

To learn about mountaintop removal, moonshining, haints, high places, coal wars and more, click here.

Senility and Bank Robbing in Eastern Colorado

East of Denver book coverShakes Williams drives from Denver to his boyhood home with his dead cat in the backseat because he wants it in the family pet cemetery. When Shakes arrives, he finds his elderly father, Emmett, living in squalor with advanced dementia. A local banker has cheated Emmett out of his farm equipment and Cessna. It’s up to Shakes to take care of his father and make things right…but making things right to Shakes means robbing the bank that cheated his father. East of Denver, by Gregory Hill, is a character-driven story that won Amazon’s 2011 Breakthrough Novel award. It examines the aging and perishing not only of people, but of homesteads and small towns.

A Gentlewoman of Shrewd Integrity

No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency book coverJourney to radiant Botswana and spend time with Precious Ramotswe, Gaborone’s first lady detective. Based on the international bestselling series by Alexander McCall Smith, the HBO adaptation of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency wisely allows the cases to serve only as backdrop to the real draw: the irresistible culture, community, and characters of this beloved African setting. Singer/actress Jill Scott brings Precious to engaging life, mastering the cadences of her speech and language to showcase wisdom, determination, and teasing fun. “There are so many people who want to know the truth about some mystery in their lives, some mystery they cannot solve themselves,” she claims. “That is what a detective is for, and that is what I will do.”

The Eternal Hobo, Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg is best known for his poem “Chicago.” After that, historians know him for his six volume biography of Abraham Lincoln. There’s more to Sandburg than these two works. He was a poet for the people, an amateur musicologist with a focus on early American folk songs, a children’s author, and a man about town who influenced everyone from Marilyn Monroe to John F. Kennedy.

Get to know Illinois’ most famous poet by dipping into The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg or watching PBS’ excellent documentary, The Day Carl Sandburg Died.

LISTS: Art Documentaries

Van Gogh DVD coverVincent van Gogh has been credited with saying, “I can’t change the fact that my paintings don’t sell. But the time will come when people will recognize that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture.”

Click here to learn more about art that has stood the test of time.

From Fashion to Terrorism

From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant book coverBoyet R. Hernandez has a flair for fashion. He leaves the Philippines for New York to try and make it as a designer. He navigates through hipsters, fashionistas, and yuppies, searching for improbable success in Brooklyn, until one night, a knock on the door brings armed men who drag him to Guantanamo. Expecting his innocence to be realized shortly, Boyet makes the best of things by turning his orange prison jump suit into couture…except Boyet is continually not found innocent.  Alex Gilvarry’s debut novel, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, is a sometimes humorous yet painfully believable reminder that even after ten plus years, Guantanamo Bay is still active.

Colleen’s Pick: Beauty Queens

Colleen staff picks photoSometimes an author’s narration can go terribly wrong. In the case of Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray, the author’s narration brings the book to life! Telling the story of teen beauty queens stranded on a remote island, Bray gives each queen a distinct voice so that humor, drama, and weirdness abound!

Cycling Through the Unexpected

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar book coverRemember when you first learned to ride a bike? It’s all about balance, isn’t it? You’ll appreciate that same skill in A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, a story that weaves between female missionaries in 1923 Asia and a woman in modern-day London who shows kindness to a Yemeni refugee. British citizens Eva, Lizzie, and Millicent have their strength and ideals tested when they find themselves unexpectedly caring for an infant while under house arrest in Turkestan. Then we shift to Frieda, a present-day Middle Eastern scholar who returns home after a long absence to discover she has inherited an apartment from a woman she has never met. Explore exotic lands and intriguing connections in Suzanne Joinson’s debut novel.

Rolling From One Small Bar to the Next

The Chitlin’ Circuit was a string of venues in the American South where African American musicians and entertainers played through the early 19th century, when racial segregation was rampant. Preston Lauterbach’s The Chitlin Circuit: And the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll examines Southern history and the musicians, promoters, and personalities on the circuit that may have never hit it big, but helped create the world of rhythm, blues, and rock and roll.