Check It Out Category: Staff Picks

Staff Pick: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Cathleen from Fiction/AV/Teen Services suggests Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed book coverIf you know anything at all about William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, you likely know that it takes place on a remote island buffeted by supernatural storm. So, the idea of translating this story to a literacy program in a present-day county prison may not be an obvious one.

In Margaret Atwood’s brilliantly envisioned Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold, a very specific play is staged both as class project and as personal vendetta for a director once ousted from a prestigious festival. Watching the action unfold in a clever remix of showmanship, we the audience are treated to parallel dramas that are equally riveting in their creativity, humor, and compassion. To paraphrase a line from the original play, “O brave new world, that has such stories in it!”
 
 
For more contemporary tales infused with Shakespearean theatricality…

Calibans Hour book coverCaliban’s Hour
by Tad Williams

In a fantasy sequel to The Tempest, one that also echoes Beauty and the Beast, the hag-seed Caliban takes Prospero’s daughter Miranda captive and insists she listen to his story.

Station Eleven
by Emily St. John Mandel

Because they believe that “survival is insufficient,” a traveling Shakespearean troupe brings art to those who remain after a global pandemic destroys civilization as it was once known.

 

Gap of Time book coverThe Gap of Time
by Jeanette Winterson

In the first of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, A Winter’s Tale is contemporized as the aftermath of the 2008 recession, following flawed but driven characters from London to the American New Bohemia.
Dead Fathers Club book coverThe Dead Fathers Club
by Matt Haig

An eleven-year old boy is charged with avenging his father’s death, possibly by his own uncle, in a clever and poignant re-imagining of Hamlet.

Sings and Arrows DVD coverSlings & Arrows
(DVD)

Each season of this brilliant Canadian television series showcases the staging of a Shakespeare play that finds its themes oddly paralleled in the current cast’s shenanigans.

 

Staff Pick: Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

Picture of NancyWill Schwalbe’s Books for Living is a celebration of reading and how worthwhile it is, even if you have a full plate of responsibilities. He thoughtfully explores more than twenty of his favorite books and what each has meant to him. This is a wonderful book for sparking your own thoughts on reading and discovering what you’ll want to read next.

Staff Pick: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Picture of Jenny In Exit West, Mohsin Hamid mostly mirrors reality to follow a young couple, Nadia and Saeed, thrust into the horrific state of civil war in their home country. Shedding light on this human experience, the somber portrayal of their journey toward safety glimmers with writing that may cause your heart to pause, but at the same time wraps you into wanting to know what will happen next to the two lovers.

 

Staff Picks: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

Jennifer from Community Services suggests The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is basically the story of two Myfanwy, rhymes with Tiffany, Thomases. The first one we never officially meet: she exists in the letters (a suitcase full) that she writes to the second Myfanwy, the one who wakes up with two black eyes and her memory scrubbed. Myfanwy has the information she needs at hand, If only she can read the letters fast enough.

The story is an urban fantasy, of sorts, in that it is set in modern day London. However, the supernatural agency that Myfanwy works for exists in its own little world with posh offices and an elaborate boarding school that churns out a devoted army of supernatural agents ready to defend the world against all otherworldly threats.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way the story was told from the alternating perspectives of Myfanwy’s letters and the real-time Myfanwy trying to sort out her bizarre circumstances. This is a book with dragons and vampires and people with tentacles and tear-gas emitting sweat. It’s complex, original, sometimes violent and altogether satisfying. The minute I was done with it I wanted to sit back down and read it again.

For more intrigue with elements of fantasy or paranormal, try…

Angelmaker
by Nick Harkaway
London Falling
by Paul Cornell

 

The Troupe book coverThe Troupe
by Robert Jackson Bennett
Alif the Unseen book coverAlif the Unseen
by G. Willow Wilson
Borderline book coverBorderline
by Mishell Baker

Staff Pick: Embassytown by China Miéville

Picture of CathleenThe world-building in Embassytown is meticulous yet subtle, and it is a fascinating backdrop for a narrative in which an indecipherable language plays a central role in the dynamic between human colonists and the complicated beings on a distant planet. Complex, graceful, and perhaps perfect for any Arrival fans eager for next-level storytelling.

Staff Pick: The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

Picture of JoyceI’m not a minimalist, but I’m slowly working towards it. I don’t want stuff to dominate my life. Do you have clothes in your closet that are three sizes smaller than what you currently wear? Are you holding onto items from your parents that you will never use? Do you have ten sets of sheets but only own two beds? Then The Joy of Less is the book for you! Too much stuff weighs us down, takes up our time, and clutters our homes and minds.  Author Francine Jay encourages us to deal with clutter, get rid of excess, and live happily with less.

Staff Pick- Good Eats Three: The Later Years by Alton Brown

Joanne from Community Services suggests Good Eats Three, The Later Years by Alton Brown

Good Eats 3 book coverAlton Brown has a very simple, but scientific, and methodical way of looking at food. In his book, Good Eats Three: The Later Years, Brown revisits the final 85 episodes of his culinary cult classic program, Good Eats. These shows highlight recipes, or “applications” that are simpler and feature common foods that people don’t ever think about making. It’s not fussy food, to say the least.

Each episode of Good Eats has a theme and tells the story about a certain food or culinary tradition. They can range from a certain cooking technique, like planking, or to the origin of a food like the Marshmallow.

Always the performer and informer, Brown’s gift is making the most mundane food interesting and he makes his audience think outside the pizza box. Episode 192: Celeryman deconstructs celery and even gives the reader an application for celery soda. Yum.

Although the show is over, this book can reignite your interest in cooking and the science behind it.

For more informative cookbooks and delicious recipes, try…

The Joy of Cooking book coverJoy of Cooking
by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker
In 1931 Irma Rombauer took her life savings and self-published a book called The Joy of Cooking. Now in an updated 75th Anniversary edition, the voice of the original authors are restored to provide many quick and healthy recipes for the way we cook today.
Mastering the art of French Cooking book coverMastering the Art of French Cooking
by Julia Child
This collection that introduced America to Julia Child is for both seasoned cooks and beginners who love good food and long to reproduce at home the savory delights of the classic cuisine.

 

Mexico One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless book coverMexico One Plate at a Time
by Rick Bayless
This great introduction to Mexican cuisine is a launchpad to master before you head into further exploration, more complicated techniques, and harder-to-find ingredients. These recipes are not complex, but they are authentic.
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
by Marcella Hazan
This author introduces the idea of pairing pasta shape with sauces, encouraged using seasonal produce in Italian cooking, and started the craze for balsamic vinegar.

 

Staff Pick: The Princess Bride

Picture of Diane“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

In a 2012 interview in New York Magazine, Mandy Patinkin said that his most famous lines from The Princess Bride gets quoted back to him by at least two or three strangers every day of his life.  Check out all the quotable lines in the magical book by William Goldman or film!

 

 

Staff Pick: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Picture of LarryTed’s twelve-year-old dachshund, Lily, has been a source of strength for him after his long-term relationship ended in bitterness and loneliness. Now Lily has a tumor shaped like an octopus growing on her head. Ted’s personal struggle caring for his dearest companion as the disease overtakes Lily is a self-realization experience which plays out in real life and in his vivid dreams. Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley is serious and funny, emotional and insightful, and authentic in its depiction of the human experience.

Staff Pick: Southeastern by Jason Isbell

Picture of EvanOn Southeastern, singer/songwriter Jason Isbell has crafted soulful, catchy songs with lyrics of dust-coated poetry about finding warmth in love when the world offers none, “Cover Me Up”, watching a friend die, “Elephant”, and a rollicking barn-burner about barely surviving an addiction,“Super 8”. It’s an album that proves the famous quote about how a great country song is only “three chords and the truth.”