Month: January 2013

Check It Out Blog

Battling Poverty to Accomplish Big Dreams

The Queen of Katwe book coverPhiona Mutesi lives in poverty with her mother and three siblings in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. It was while searching for food that Phiona stumbled upon Robert Katendo teaching chess. Katendo hoped to empower poor children and strengthen their minds through the complex game. By 11, Phiona was Uganda’s junior chess champion. At 15, she was the national chess champion. Tim Crothers, a former senior writing for Sports Illustrated, chronicles Phiona’s goal of becoming a grandmaster in chess. If you liked Behind the Beautiful Forevers, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, or Half the Sky, you’ll probably like The Queen of Katwe.

John’s Pick: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

John staff picks photoHedwig and the Angry Inch, cinematic history’s first transsexual, glam-rock musical, follows German expatriate Hedwig and her hilariously unpopular band The Angry Inch (named for Hedwig’s semi-botched sex-change operation). Their cross-country tour plays a chain of cut-rate family seafood restaurants in a film about pain, love, and what identity means.

On Her Majesty’s Supernatural Secret Service

The Rook audiobook coverIn one of the most fascinating starts in recent fiction, Myfanwy Thomas wakes up in a London park surrounded by dead bodies wearing latex gloves, and she has no idea how this happened or even who she is. A note in her jacket pocket begins, “The body you are wearing used to be mine,” kick-starting a story that escalates in both action and intrigue. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is masterfully read by Susan Duerden, who rises to the challenge of voicing two versions of Myfanwy — one of whom is revealed through stacks of preemptive letters, and the other who is trying to ferret out a conspiracy in the secret organization which battles supernatural forces in Britain.

Joe Hill’s Favorite Key

Joe Hill has won acclaim by creating dark, disturbing stories, like Heart-Shaped Box, and most notably, Horns – which is being made into a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe. In addition to his fiction, Joe Hill writes comics. Locke and Key follows Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode  after the murder of their father, when they are forced to move into Keyhouse, a supernatural estate located in Lovecraft, Massachusetts.

Expand Your Mind, Read Poetry

The 20th Century in Poetry“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history,” said Plato. Perhaps what he meant was that poetry can make people recognize, comprehend, and connect personally to hard and beautiful truths easier than when facts are stated plainly. The Twentieth Century in Poetry, edited by Michael Hulse and Simon Rae, hopes to put the history of 1900 – 2000 in context through English-language poetry. Over 400 poems are ordered chronologically, each era is given a brief introduction, and the poems have concise notes to help give them historical context. You can rediscover old favorites – like Joyce, Eliot, Ginsberg, Frost, and Plath – while you unearth a plethora of poets that time has unfairly forgotten.

Donna S.’s Pick: The Orchard

Donna S staff pick photoThe Orchard by Theresa Weir tells the story of a street-wise girl who marries into an old and well-respected farm family. Insight is given on farm traditions, the standard use of pesticides, its effect on the land, and dealing with the iron will of a family matriarch.

The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers book coverValerie of Research Services recommends The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh:

It is said that non-verbal communication can be just as, if not more powerful than, what is spoken aloud. Victoria Jones is a mistrustful soul who has been shuffled from one foster home to another, and has even endured homelessness. It is at age ten, when she is placed with Elizabeth, that she finds solace in flowers and their meanings. Later, Victoria has an uncanny ability to convey messages through the bouquets she creates, and builds a future on this skill…but a catastrophic secret from her childhood is nearly enough to jeopardize her one chance at happiness. Can this self-described “thistle-peony-basil kind of girl” overcome her past and learn the true meaning of love? Just as receiving a bouquet of flowers creates a pleasant memory, so too will this story of faith and redemption.

From Wagnerian Operas to Arena Rock

In How Music Works, David Byrne examines the joy, physics, and business of music, often through the lens of his own diverse career. Most people know David Byrne as the shy, awkward lead singer of the Talking Heads. He is also an author, painter, photographer, producer, and uber-talented eccentric.

Here’s Byrne giving a TED Talk about how architecture helped music evolve, a topic he writes about in How Music Works.

LISTS: Documentaries about the Environment

Plastic Planet DVD coverIt’s a new year, so how about thinking of the world around you in a new way? The Earth is the only planet that can sustain life in humanity’s foreseeable future. Take some time to learn more about it, the way we currently use it, and some of the ways that we could use it better.


Click here to see for documentaries focusing on crucial environmental issues.