National Book Awards

"The Good Lord Bird" by James McBride

Since 1950, the National Book Awards have celebrated the best in American literature. The winners for 2013 were announced November 20 at the annual National Book Award Ceremony and Gala in New York City.

James McBride won in the fiction category for his novel "The Good Lord Bird." In this action-packed historical novel, a young enslaved boy living in the Kansas Territory in 1857 disguises himself as a girl and travels the country with abolitionist John Brown.

"The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America" by George Packer won the nonfiction prize. Packer writes about changes in our country over the last three decades. To illustrate, he examines the lives of various individuals, including a factory worker in Ohio, a Washington lobbyist, and the son of a tobacco farmer.

Dexter's Final Cut

Dexter's Final Cut by Jeff Lindsay

Following the end of the TV show, Dexter Morgan, the serial killer that fans love to root for, makes one final appearance in the book series that started everything. Ironically, Dexter's last appearance in the books involves him being cast as a forensic analyst as an extra on a TV show. As he navigates the world of Hollywood he also finds himself pitted against another serial killer. Surrounded by celebrities and the media, he tries to track down his final opponent without being caught. Dexter's Final Cut is an exciting conclusion to the Dexter story, tying up all the ends in unexpected ways.  

--Michael B., Jamestown Bluffs Branch

Elizabeth Smart Sets the Record Straight

My Story by Elizabeth Smart

"My Story" by Elizabeth Smart with Chris Stewart describes the kidnapping and 9-month ordeal the author suffered at the hands of kidnappers. Taken from her home at the age of 14, Elizabeth Smart was subjected to every kind of abuse imaginable during her captivity. Now, as an adult, she is forthright about what happened and what she was forced to do to stay alive.

She takes several opportunities to deny that she suffered from Stockholm Syndrome, which is a psychological condition some hostages and kidnap victims develop. Smart denies having any sympathetic thoughts for her captors, stating that she lived in mortal fear every day and that is what influenced her behavior.

American Kid

American Kid by Patti Griffin

Patti Griffin's ability to pen a great tune isn't in question as so many other artists record her songs.  She's a fine singer in her own right, great for subtle nuances and heart aching laments.

Birding 101

When the trees start looking bare, the landscape can seem dreary. But there is still plenty of natural beauty to enjoy. Autumn is a great time to try bird watching. With less leaves on trees it can be easier to spot birds, and fall migrations can bring different species to your backyard.

Love is All You Need

Love is All You Need

In "Love is All You Need" Pierce Brosnan does an outstanding job as Philip, a widowed business man who can barely make time to go to his son's wedding. Ida, played by Danish star Trine Dyrholm, is working in a beauty salon and taking care of her husband and son even as she finishes her cancer treatments. Ida's daughter is getting married to Philip's son. A car accident serves as Philip and Ida's introduction and doesn't make for good first impressions. The wedding has collisions as well, but Ida finds the silver lining no matter how cloudy the weather. A believable, realistic relationship film for audiences looking beyond the farce of romantic comedies, "Love is All You Need" isn't so much a romance as it is as a guide on how to be gracious when your family is dysfunctional. The plot resolutions may be predictable, but the path taken is not.

Top 10 Reasons to Read Veronica Roth's "Divergent"

"Divergent" by Veronica Roth

Top 10 Reasons to Read Veronica Roth's "Divergent"

10. It's like "The Hunger Games" meets "Fight Club."

9.  It's set in Chicago, and mentions several popular landmarks...although, they've been changed over time in this dystopian future.

8. Simulated Fear Landscapes. How fast can you overcome your phobias?

7. Geniuses make the best villains. Our heroine Tris could learn a thing or two from Superman and his battles with Lex Luthor. 

6. Knowing combat trainer Four is afraid of things too makes everyone just a little more brave. 

5. Who hasn't wanted to try jumping on and off a moving El train? 

Would You Rather be David or Goliath?

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

According to Malcolm Gladwell in his latest book, "David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants," the answer is not so simple. Gladwell asserts that qualities we generally perceive as strengths can be a source of weakness. Conversely, the lack of those things can be an advantage. He also explores how being an underdog changes a person. In some cases, facing impossible odds creates opportunities.

Perks of Being a Wallflower

"Perks of Being a Wallflower"

Setting the normal teen movie on its head "Perks of a Being a Wallflower" shows both the pain and the joy of coming of age. Introverted Charlie has a lot of baggage for a freshman in high school. His best friend recently committed suicide and Charlie is having difficulty getting beyond his grief and other issues. At school, he is drawn to some other outcasts, Sam and Patrick, who are seniors and far more flamboyant. Sam and Patrick's world is peopled with eccentrics and revolutionaries.  Charlie is an odd fit for their motley crew, but they welcome him. Despite their age difference and her telling him not to, Charlie falls for Sam and the usual manic highs and crushing lows of infatuation sear through this character whose old wounds haven't even begun to scab over.

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