September 2015 Staff Picks
Becky’s Pick: Lila by Marilynne Robinson
Lila is born into rough life in the 1920s, we meet her cold and lonely as a young child, left outside at night by the adults who (we can only guess) are meant to care for her. She is spared a miserable death by Doll, and they eventually join a troupe of wandering labourers and life is hard but not impossible. The story winds back and forth from Lila’s young life to the present day, where she lives in Gilead, a town familiar to readers of Robinson’s earlier works. In Gilead Lila works to reconcile her life and relationships with her earlier existence. Despite being written around the sad and dark events that shape Lila’s whole experience, this work is consistently about the beauty and wonder of the everyday. From the comfort that Lila feels simply by being near Doll, the closest person she has to a mother, to the peace that she finds in being in or near the water and sleeping under the stars, Marilynne Robinson shows us that it is possible and human to feel these pleasures even amongst great struggle. Themes of spirituality and existence (a word that Lila did not know before Gilead, but a concept that she often pondered) are frequently incorporated into Robinson’s novel. The work itself reads almost like an epic poem, Robinson’s style is beautiful and the lack of chapter breaks encourages the reader to immerse themselves in the life of Lila, a sad and beautiful experience that will stick with you.
Brenda’s Pick: The Devil You Know by Elisabeth De Mariaffi
This very Canadian book takes readers back to the early 1990’s. The plot centers on the time of the Paul Bernardo murders. Evie, the protagonist in the novel, is a young journalist living in Toronto and has been assigned to fact-finding the murders of young girls over the years. Her investigations take us not only into Toronto neighbourhoods but also into the experience of the pervading fear. Evie represents the “everywoman” of that era and we feel her sense of trepidation as she uncovers stories that also tie into a personal event earlier in her life. As she tries to unravel the connections, her confusion, fears and questioning become contagious. I would call this book a thriller, a genre I don’t usually go for, but the author takes us deeper and into the psyche of Evie and this insight created an intense and readable story.
Brownie’s Pick: Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science by Rachel Swaby
Science is a funny business; intimidating and fascinating all at the same time. Chemistry baffled me but I loved looking at diagrams and was equally intrigued by my Grade 10 science teacher, Miss Fast. She was a woman teaching Chemistry, very unusual (I won’t say how long ago that was!) and how did she remember all of the Periodic Table; and what was it about Chemistry that convinced her it was interesting? Even though I never did excel in science, I’ve always maintained the fascination. That’s why I snapped up one of our new books “Headstrong: 52 Women who changed science and the world.” It’s a quick review (and easy to read) of the many brilliant women in science over the centuries. Who knew so many women were involved in everything from robots to cell structure! It tells a little about Marie Curie. She’s well worth following up with another book we have “Radioactive.” It’s a beautiful book, in rich colour and a very poignant read.
(See Passionate Minds for Part 2)
Brownie’s Pick: Passionate Minds by David Bodanis
But THIS recommendation is about another scientist mentioned in “Headstrong” – Emilie du Chatelet. The title of the book tells it all. “Passionate Minds. The great love affair of the Enlightenment, featuring the scientist Emilie du Chatelet, the poet Voltaire, sword fights, book burnings, assorted kings, seditious verse, and the birth of the modern world.” How can you resist a title like that? du Chatelet has been remembered mostly through her fifteen year relationship with Voltaire, but author David Bodanis details the importance of her scientific studies, beginning with Isaac Newton “…this graceful, quick-witted, and attractive woman worked out the concepts that would lead directly to the “squared” part of Einstein’s revolutionary equation: E=mc2.” This probably all sounds daunting! But check out that book title again—yes, sword fights and book burnings and tons of lover intrigue. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the morals of the 1700s; the lives of the rich and famous; philosophy, politics and science of the day. Emilie du Chatelet was an extraordinary woman—talented and courageous, in science as well as life. This book captures it all.
David’s Pick: Lila by Marilynne Robinson
When Marilynne Robinson publishes a new book, it’s time for a celebration. This novel, her fourth, and the third to take place in the mythical town of Gilead, Iowa, explores the early life of Lila, the second wife of minister John Ames. Like all of Robinson’s other functional works, it is really an examination of the darkness and light in all lives, dealing with loss, sin, redemption, grace, faith, and other dimensions of human existence that used to be common fodder for novelists but now are somewhat old-fashioned. However, Robinson has never steered away from viewing the lives, often terribly tragic and unhappy, of her protagonists through the lens of Christian faith; beyond that, her descriptive prose and her ability to shine a clear light into dark and seldom-explored corners of the human psyche are as strong as ever. Every page contains an insight, and the story as a whole is beautiful without being cloying. This book will send you to Home & Gilead, the other two novels in the set; but be sure to take time for Housekeeping too, Robinson’s first novel. They are all amazing works of fiction.
Leanne’s Pick: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Howl’s Moving Castle is a children’s fantasy novel that was first published in 1986. It a great story full of wit, charm, and adventure. This book is a great read for children (the target age is 12), but many adults will enjoy it as well. I know I did! The story is centered on Sophie Hatter, who is the eldest of three daughters living in the town of Market Chipping in the fictional kingdom of Ingary. She works in her family’s hat shop, and has no hopes of anything exciting ever happening to her. After a chance encounter with the powerful Witch of the Waste, Sophie is put under a spell that turns her into an old woman. She thinks her best hope of breaking the curse is the Wizard Howl, who has a fearsome reputation and who lives in a castle that moves around the countryside. She puts her fears aside and sets off on a quest to break her enchantment and to change her destiny. Along the way she comes across many memorable characters: a walking turnip-headed scarecrow; a young apprentice wizard; a fire demon; and of course, the heartless Wizard Howl. Is Howl really as dreadful as the gossip says? Will Sophie ever break her curse and find happiness? Read Howl’s Moving Castle to find out! The story has also been made into an animated movie by Hayao Miyazaki. Check it out from the Library for a very different take on the story.
Mark’s Pick: Agatha Christie Poirot: The Definitive Collection (DVD)
Do you enjoy solving mysteries? If so, this collection of cases by Agatha Christie’s legendary detective Hercule Poirot is for you. The remarkable thing about this series is that every episode is a captivating mystery that engages the mind of the viewer. Each story is easy to follow and from the first scene, you want to know who the culprit may be. And then after having watched a few episodes, you wonder if you can decipher the clues just like Hercule Poirot? Even if you don’t solve the mysteries, it is certain that this series will offer you hours of enjoyable and engaging television that will leave you wanting more when they are all done.
Megan’s Pick: Heritage by Sean Brock
For anyone who’s been into the Library when I’m working, they’ll know I’m the tattooed one at the front. With an interest in tattoos, and food I was naturally drawn to this cookbook. Brock is a Southern chef who ties together everything I imagine Southern food to be. His recipes are rich in history and connections to community, and wholesome that feed you body and soul. With the harvest upon us, and colder Fall and Winter months ahead, I recommend some of his recipes for preserves like the Butter-Bean Chowchow, Pickled Cabbage, and Nasturtium Capers. There is also a recipe for a fermented hot sauce (Husk Hot Sauce) I’m dying to try. One thing to note with Heritage is that because many of the recipes are regional some of the ingredients might be difficult to find up here in Powell River, but I’ve made some tasty substitutions with local ingredients.