Racing Around the World

"Eighty Days" by Matthew Goodman

Matthew Goodman's book "Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World" tells the story of a publicity stunt that captured the public imagination in nineteenth-century America.

Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper "The World" specialized in lurid and shocking stories that increased sales. But by late 1889, circulation figures were leveling off. The editors wanted to do something big that would sell papers for more than one day.

One of the few female reporters on staff was Nellie Bly, who had become a popular figure through her undercover journalism. Bly got herself committed to an insane asylum to report on the treatment of women there, and went to work in a paper-box factory to reveal poor working conditions.

Local Author Creates Mysterious World

"The Facades" by Eric Lundgren

Eric Lundgren's comic novel "The Facades" centers on Sven Norberg and his search for his missing wife, a popular mezzo soprano with the city opera. Norberg has a 16-year-old son, a menial job, a mother living in an exclusive mental institution, and lots of time to ponder what it all means.

Norberg moves from one absurd situation to another, introducing readers to the fictional Midwestern city of Trude, a formerly-great industrial center now crowded with boarded-up grand hotels and mansions. The architecture of the city is dominated by the work of one man who left behind a memoir titled "Memories of My Nervous Illness."

The mayor of Trude has closed the public libraries in an effort to make the city less "namby-pamby." A group of librarians has formed an armed militia and occupies Central Public Library, a large beaux-arts palace with high arched windows and a staircase flanked by two gilded owls.

Liberal Arts

"Liberal Arts"

"Liberal Arts" jumps the usual indie film hurdles with great acting and a strong script. Jesse, played by Josh Radnor, is in a dead end job and a foundering relationship. When one of his favorite college professors announces retirement, Jesse takes the opportunity to relive his glory days. As his life unravels, an unlikely romantic relationship with a student creates new options, but also new complications. It turns out Jesse has more to learn from his alma mater.  He is not alone. Some of the professors he admires also get hard lessons. By turns funny, dramatic, charming and heartbreaking; this indie has some surprises, but never loses sight of the theme to make the most of life, even if it hurts.

--Cindy F., Headquarters

Affinity

"Affinity" by Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters is good at creating creepy moods and her novel "Affinity" is very creepy, indeed. The story takes place in 19th century London, so there are a lot of fog banks, old buildings and mysterious servants to heighten the suspense. The main character, Margaret Prior, does not fit in her world. She, having recently recovered from a suicide attempt, is invited to visit the women inmates of Millbank Prison. These isolated and misbegotten women might benefit from interacting with ladies such as Margaret. There are innate dangers, however, and Margaret is warned by the experienced and stern staff to abide by their seemingly harsh rules.

Wonderstruck

"Wonderstruck" by Brian Selznick.

Did you enjoy the movie "Hugo" or its book counterpart, the Caldecott winning "The Invention of Hugo Cabret"? Then I've got a great book for you! "Wonderstruck" is the newest offering by imaginative author Brian Selznick. Written in the same style as "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," Selznick's novel continues his tradition of blending two separate stories that are told in both words and illustrations into one masterful tale.  The first of two alternating stories is set in 1977, where 12-year-old orphan Ben is struck deaf by lightning moments after uncovering a mysterious clue to his unknown father's identity.  Throwing caution to the wind, Ben runs away from his hospital in Minnesota to New York City searching for answers to this mystery.

Maybe I’m Amazed

"Fab" by Howard Sounes

"Fab: an intimate life of Paul McCartney" is, even at 563 pages, a quick read for a Beatle fan. Author Howard Sounes conducted more than 200 interviews in preparation for writing this book in addition to reading other McCartney biographies, news articles and lyrics. "Fab" is not an authorized biography of the pop music icon, and it ends before Paul's most recent marriage. Paul's romances with Jane Asher, Linda Eastman and Heather Mills comprise much of the book. It is, as the title indicates, intimate as the author used information from Paul's grade school friends, Scotland neighbors and librarian (!), longtime minders and factotums, and closest co-workers and backup musicians. Such folks provide concrete examples of McCartney's virtues and vices, especially the ones that have deep roots in his character.

Literary Recluse Revisited

Salinger by Shane Salerno

A hot topic right now is the new documentary film about author J.D. Salinger. The documentary is accompanied by a book entitled "Salinger" by David Shields and Shane Salerno. SLCL has several copies. It's a long book--700 pages! But with eight years of research and interviews behind it, one might expect that.

A Closer Look at a Western Legend

"Shot All to Hell" by Mark Lee Gardner

 

In "Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West's Greatest Escape," Mark Lee Gardner examines an infamous episode in the history of the American West. In September of 1876, the James-Younger gang attempted to rob the First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota. The failed robbery set off a prolonged manhunt that resulted in the death or capture of the entire gang save Frank and Jesse James.

While Gardner claims to present the "most accurate account" of these events, he admits the difficulty in separating fact from legend. Eyewitness accounts disagree; the captured outlaws made numerous false statements; and newspaper accounts were often based on rumor and speculation.

Twisted Rhymes and Characters

"Spinster Goose" by Lisa Wheeler

"Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children" by Lisa Wheeler and Sophie Blackall is an amusing adaptation of well-known Mother Goose rhymes. There is a forward by Mother Goose which explains how she sends naughty children to her sister, Spinster Goose who has a school for miscreants. In rhyme and in amusing artwork, a host of bad children are dealt with at Spinster's school.

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