Staff Pick—John—IN ORDER TO LIVE: A NORTH KOREAN GIRL’S JOURNEY TO FREEDOM, by Yeonmi Park, DB 82685

If North Korea is in the news, you know something bad happened.

Usually it’s a nuclear missile test, cyber attack, or military purge.

Most recently, it was the sad case of Otto Warmbier, the college student from Cincinnati who, in January of 2016, was arrested in North Korea for stealing a propaganda poster.  Sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, Warmbier died shortly after being released earlier this month.

Headlines aside, satellites and space stations are our most reliable windows into life in North Korea.  Astronauts on the International Space Station caused an International Sensation in 2014 when NASA released a photo taken as the space station flew over the Korean Peninsula.

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/iss038e038300.jpg

The photo shows North Korea as almost completely black.  China and South Korea are brightly illuminated, but—save for the glimmer of Pyongyang—North Korea blends into the black ocean.  This absence of light is an exquisite metaphor for what we don’t know about life in the “hermit kingdom.”

North Korean defectors put a human face on life in this police state, but they’ve proven to be unreliable witnesses, in part because lying is a reflexive survival mechanism for North Koreans.

Escape from Camp Fourteen, by Blaine Harden (DB 76532), is the most prominent example.  Three years after publication, Shin Dong-hyuk, the young defector at the heart of the book, changed some of the details of his story.  (See http://www.blaineharden.com/escape-from-camp-14-reviews/.)

As Harden notes, because North Korea is closed to the outside world, it’s difficult to fact-check defectors’ stories, and they must be read with a skeptical eye.

Several recent memoirs written by defectors, vetted by skeptical eyes, shed slivers of light on North Korea, including IN ORDER TO LIVE: A NORTH KOREAN GIRL’S JOURNEY TO FREEDOM, by Yeonmi Park (DB 82685).

Park escaped North Korea in 2007 at the age of 13, along with her mother.  Both were sold as slave brides in China, and Yeonmi later helped traffic other North Korean women—one of many examples of what she did, quite literally, in order to live.

Park eventually finds her way to South Korea.  Along the way, she discovers that freedom can be cruel and painful.  Her salvation is books: reading helps her learn how to be a human.

Park offers a disturbing but human portrait of North Korea as “hell on earth.”  Yes, it’s not uncommon to go weeks, if not months, without electricity.  She and her family eat roasted cicadas, grasshoppers, and dragonfly heads to survive the famine of the 1990s.  When faced with a fertilizer shortage, the regime institutes a policy which is so bizarre that it’s almost amusing.  Almost.

Hatred of Americans is a pillar of education in North Korea: schoolchildren are taught to hate Americans.  The bleakness of life in North Korea is even reflected in its language: there is no word for “justice.”  And the only definition of “love” is what you feel for the Dear Leader.

While you’re enjoying those lazy hazy crazy days of summer, take a moment to give thanks that you live in the United States, where justice is more than a word, and you can love to your heart’s content.

NLS Annotation: An autobiographical recounting of life in the repressive North Korean society in which the author was raised, and her subsequent escape.  She describes her family, the culture of leader worship, her father’s imprisonment and torture, and how, even after her escape, she was sold into sexual slavery in China.  Unrated.  Commercial audiobook.  2015.

For more about Yeonmi Park and North Korea, travel to these links:

Park’s remarkable 2014 One World Summit speech:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufhKWfPSQOw

Park’s book talk at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon:

https://www.c-span.org/video/?400033-1/order-live

And a ReasonTV interview:

http://reason.com/archives/2015/11/13/yeonmi-park-north-korean-defector/print

For further exploration of North Korea, read THE GREAT LEADER AND THE FIGHTER PILOT: THE TRUE STORY OF THE TYRANT WHO CREATED NORTH KOREA AND THE YOUNG LIEUTENANT WHO STOLE HIS WAY TO FREEDOM, by Blaine Harden (DB 82372).

THE ORPHAN MASTER’S SON (DB 74282), by Adam Johnson, is a fictionalized peek inside North Korea.  It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2013.

Staff Pick—John—ON HALLOWED GROUND: THE HISTORY OF ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, by Robert M. Poole, DB 71779

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer.  Filled with picnics, pool parties, and parades, it’s a time of laughter and leisure.  And yet . . .

Memorial Day is also a time for honoring and remembering those who died while serving in our country’s armed forces.  Perhaps the most compelling Memorial Day observance is held at Arlington National Cemetery.  As Robert M. Poole notes in ON HALLOWED GROUND: THE HISTORY OF ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, “few images linger in the national imagination as vividly as this hallowed ground.”

The former executive editor of National Geographic, Poole explores the history and “age-old rituals” that make Arlington National Cemetery sacred, tracing its transformation from the plantation of a young U.S. Army Colonel named Robert E. Lee to national shrine. We travel from the Civil War’s “stench of death” and the horrific trenches of “The War to End All Wars,” through the “nastiest little war” in Korea and the shock of 9/11.  Poole shows how and why “no other nation goes to the effort that the United States does to recover and pay respects to its war dead.”

Poole enlivens our walk through Arlington’s haunting landscape with rich kernels of military history.  He relates the origins of the soldier’s lullaby we know as “Taps,” unearths the evolution of “dog tags,” and reveals the role Arlington National Cemetery played in the construction of that oddball shaped, five-sided building next door.

We meet heroic citizen-soldiers like sharecropper’s son Audie Murphy, whose standard issue tombstone is too small to list all of his 28 decorations.  Pennsylvania pig farmer Alton W. Knappenberger, who was “scared the whole time I was over there,” but risked “his life above and beyond the call of duty” at Anzio.  We follow the ill-fated odyssey of Michael Blassie, the Unknown of the Vietnam War.  And we keep vigil with the sentinels who guard the soldiers, “known but to God,” who rest at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

We also revisit that bleak weekend in November 1963 when we mourned President Kennedy.  Poole describes behind-the-scenes preparations for the President’s funeral, including the frantic, last-minute quest for an “eternal flame,” and the antics of Black Jack, the riderless horse who captivated a nation and bedeviled its handler.  President Kennedy’s burial forever changed Arlington National Cemetery.

Remember the reason for the season.  Make Memorial Day more than a three-day weekend!  Pay homage to those who gave their lives while serving our country by visiting ON HALLOWED GROUND: THE HISTORY OF ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY.

Cover of On Hallowed Ground by Robert M. Poole

NLS Annotation: Describes how the former plantation of Robert E. Lee’s family, which was confiscated during the Civil War, evolved into a national cemetery for veterans. Explains day-to-day operations and ceremonies. 2009.

For more about Arlington National Cemetery and “the saddest acre in America,” read Poole’s, SECTION 60: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY: WHERE WAR COMES HOME, DB 80705.

Meet author Richard M. Poole in this 2009 “Talk of the Nation” interview: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120318330

Staff Pick – John – IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS: LOVE, TERROR, AND AN AMERICAN FAMILY IN HITLER’S BERLIN, DB 73470

The Talking Book Program’s Phone-in Book Club recently discussed THE BOYS IN THE BOAT: NINE AMERICANS AND THEIR EPIC QUEST FOR GOLD AT THE 1936 BERLIN OLYMPICS (DB 77138).  While the focus of the book was on the University of Washington crew that rowed its way to a Gold Medal, it also provides glimpses of life in Nazi Germany under Adolph Hitler.

Not for the first time, I asked myself how good, decent people could fall under the influence of the likes of Hitler, Göring, and Goebbels.  While there are no truly “good” answers to that question, Erik Larson’s IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS: LOVE, TERROR, AND AN AMERICAN FAMILY IN HITLER’S BERLIN offers a compelling and unique account of Germany’s descent into “savage darkness.”

A master of narrative nonfiction, Larson is the author of ISAAC’S STORM: A MAN, A TIME, AND THE DEADLIEST HURRICANE IN HISTORY (DB/DX 48811), DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY DB/DX 55748), and DEAD WAKE: THE LAST CROSSING OF THE LUSITANIA (DB 80936).

Larson spotlights William Dodd, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany from 1933-1937.  Dodd is a modest History professor and native Virginian who courageously confronted Confederate Civil War veterans early in his academic career.  Dodd’s adult daughter, Martha, is an intriguing complementary figure.  At first enamored by the energy of the Nazi revolution, Martha is soon gripped by “deepening revulsion” at its brutality.

Dodd was one of the few diplomats or politicians who had both the foresight to recognize what Hitler would become and the courage to speak about the evils of Nazi Germany.  However, his superiors in the State Department ridiculed Dodd at every turn as a crude maverick, and he was eventually replaced by a career diplomat who stressed the “positive aspects of Nazi Germany.”

From the “Night of Long Knives” to Kristallnacht, IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS casts Dodd as a “lone beacon of American freedom and hope in a land of gathering darkness.”

NLS Annotation: Follows the lives of U.S. ambassador William E. Dodd and his family, who moved to Berlin, Germany, in 1933. Discusses their attitudes toward the Nazi Party, obliviousness to Hitler’s true character, and naive reactions to the persecution of Jews and Americans and the enforcement of stringent laws. Bestseller. 2011.

Movie buffs should note that a film adaptation of IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS is in the works, with Tom Hanks rumored to play the role of Ambassador Dodd.

To learn more about IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS, and Hitler’s rise to power, listen to a 2012 interview with Larson on NPR’s “Fresh Air”: http://www.npr.org/2012/05/04/151378813/the-u-s-ambassador-inside-hitlers-berlin

A master of narrative nonfiction, Larson is also the author of ISAAC’S STORM: A MAN, A TIME, AND THE DEADLIEST HURRICANE IN HISTORY (DB/DX 48811); DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY (DB/DX 55748); and DEAD WAKE: THE LAST CROSSING OF THE LUSITANIA (DB 80936).

Staff Pick – John – THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE by David Finkel, DB 77869

Texas Center for the Book, via Read Across Texas, is encouraging Texans to use books to engage in tough but important conversations about what happens when veterans come home. More information about Read Across Texas is at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexas.

To help launch Read Across Texas, the Texas State Library hosted best-selling author Ben Fountain for a discussion on his critically acclaimed work, BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK. (https://www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexasresources.)

In addition, the Talking Book Program’s Phone-in Book Club tackled YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE, by Siobhan Fallon (DT 07103).

Fountain and Fallon use fiction to explore what happens when soldiers return stateside. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Finkel offers an intense but moving nonfiction account of veterans coming home in THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE (DB 77869).

Finkel chronicles the lives of soldiers from the 2-16 Infantry Battalion readjusting to civilian life—and families readjusting to soldiers. As the soldiers battle the physical and emotional aftereffects of war, we develop a deeper understanding of the price soldiers pay for serving their country—and a fuller accounting of the debt we owe.

Discover why Ben Fountain calls THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE “one of the best and truest books I have ever read.”

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE by David Finkel (DB 77869):

NLS Annotation: Journalist who was embedded with the U.S. Army in Iraq describes what life was like for some of the veterans from THE GOOD SOLDIERS (DB 70623) after they returned stateside. Portrays issues the men and their families dealt with, including suicide, PTSD, and financial strains.  Violence and strong language.  2013.

Listen to an October 2013 NPR interview with author David Finkel:

http://www.npr.org/2013/10/01/224493078/thank-you-for-your-service-follows-americas-soldiers-home

Dream Works Pictures is currently producing a movie adaption of THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE. Jason Hall, who wrote the screenplay for “American Sniper,” is both its screenwriter and director.  Due for release in 2017, information about the movie version of THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE is here:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2776878/?ref_=nv_sr_1

APRIL 2017 BOOK CLUB TITLE ANNOUNCED!

Please join us on Thursday, April 6 at 7 pm (Central Time) for our Book Club discussion of BOYS IN THE BOAT: NINE AMERICANS AND THEIR EPIC QUEST FOR GOLD AT THE 1936 BERLIN OLYMPICS, by Daniel Brown (DB 77138).

We host our Book Club meetings via toll free conference call. All you need to participate is a telephone!

To RSVP call the Talking Book Program at 1-800-252-9605. or email us at tbp.ral@tsl.texas.gov. (RSVP preferred by March 16.)

BOYS IN THE BOAT is available by mail in digital cartridge. It is also available to download on BARD.

Please indicate if you would like us to mail you the digital cartridge, or if you prefer to download it from BARD.

BOYS IN THE BOAT: NINE AMERICANS AND THEIR EPIC QUEST FOR GOLD AT THE 1936 BERLIN OLYMPICS

Daniel Brown

DB 77138

Recounts the accomplishments of nine working-class athletes from the University of Washington who beat elite teams at home and abroad and won the gold medal for rowing at the 1936 Nazi-orchestrated Berlin Olympics. Bestseller. 2013.

We look forward to having you join us on April 6!

MARCH 7, 2017 “READ ACROSS TEXAS” BOOK CLUB!

Please join us on Tuesday, March 7 at 7 pm (Central Time) for our “Read Across Texas” Book Club discussion of YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE, by Shiobhan Fallon (DT 07103).

Read Across Texas: The Veteran Experience is an initiative of the Texas Center for the Book to encourage communities to engage in tough but important conversations about what happens when veterans come home.

For more information about Read Across Texas, visit https://www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexas.

We host our Book Club meetings via toll free conference call. All you need to participate is a telephone!

To RSVP call the Talking Book Program at 1-800-252-9605. or email us at tbp.ral@tsl.texas.gov.

Please indicate if you would like us to mail you the digital cartridge, or if you prefer to download it.

YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE was recorded in our Texas TBP Recording Studio and it is not yet available on BARD.

Texas Talking Book Program patrons can download YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE here:

You Know When the Men are Gone DT 07103

The downloaded book can be played only on authorized devices such as the DTBM. It cannot be played on your computer, or downloaded using the BARD mobile app.

Downloading from this link is similar to downloading it from BARD. The file is in a compressed format that will need to be unzipped.  Only TBP patrons may download the book.

YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE

Shiobhan Fallon

DT 07103

There is an army of women waiting for their men to return in Fort Hood, Texas. Through a series of loosely interconnected stories, Fallon takes the readers onto the base, inside the homes, into the marriages and families not seen by the public.  When the men are gone, babies still cry, telephones ring, Saturday morning cartoons screech, but without the men, there is a sense of muted silence, a sense of muted life.  Strong language, violence and some descriptions of sex.  2011.

Please help us “Read Across Texas” on March 7!

BARD Express is Here!

The National Library Service (NLS) is pleased to offer BARD Express to its BARD patrons.

BARD Express simplifies the downloading process for patron using Windows-based computers. BARD Express downloads multiple books simultaneously, unzips them automatically, and transfers them to your storage device.  It also remembers your BARD password and logs you in automatically each time you access BARD.

Kirk Saathoff, a California software developer, created BARD Express and donated it to the Library of Congress. Saathoff’s wife and son are NLS patrons.

To learn more about this exciting new feature, visit the BARD Express Home page: https://nlsbardpractice.loc.gov/LOC_02/BARDExpress.html.

NLS has produced a series of tutorial videos that introduce patrons to BARD Express. Browse these informative videos to learn more about BARD Express!

An Introduction

Browsing the BARD Collection

Transferring Materials to a Cartridge

Browsing the Recently Added and Most Popular Lists

Searching the BARD Collection

Using Your Wish List

Setting and Changing Preferences

Managing Devices

Tips and Tricks

Access the whole series here: BARD Express How-To Series.

For additional assistance or BARD support, contact the Texas Talking Book Program at 1-800-252-9605 (toll-free in Texas), 512-463-5458; or tbp.bard@tsl.texas.gov.

G’Day, Mates: Read Your Way to Australia!

The Light Between Oceans (DB 751921) offers an intriguing snapshot of Australia.  The Land Down Under fascinates me.  The Kangaroos.  The Outback.  The Accent.  It’s a mysterious and exotic continent.

Despite this fascination, I have a love-hate relationship with Australia: I’d love to visit—but I’d hate to spend 22 hours on a plane getting there.  So, instead of flying to Australia, I “book it” and read my way there.

If you’d like to experience the people, places, and critters of Australia, save yourself a wicked case of jet lag.  Read your way to the Land Down Under!

ADULT FICTION

Broken Shore.  Temple, Peter.  DB 67414, LB 05305

Chain Lightning.  Lowell, Elizabeth.  DB 76573

Far Country.  Shute, Nevil.  BR 03046, DB 59136 (BARD ONLY), DX 59136

Just Kate.  Miller, Linda Lael.  DB 76540

Outlaw.  Dekker, Ted.  DB 77481

Secret River.  Grenville, Kate.  DB 64041 (BARD ONLY), DX 64041

Thorn Birds.  McCullough, Colleen.  BR 04284, DX 51148, LB 02198

True History Of The Kelly Gang.  Carey, Peter.  DB 53638 (BARD ONLY), DX 53638

Wilderness Trek.  Grey, Zane.  RC 64235, DB 10978 (BARD ONLY), DB 64235, DX 10978

ADULT NONFICTION

Chasing Kangaroos: A Continent, a Scientist, and a Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Creature.  Flannery, Tim.  DX 66755

Steve And Me.  Irwin, Terri.  DB 66251

Reef: A Passionate History.  McCalman, Iain.  DB 79477

JUVENILE FICTION

In Too Deep: The 39 Clues.  Watson, Jude.  (For grades 4-7 and older readers.)  DB 78503

Toad Rage.  Gleitzman, Morris.  (For grades 3-6.)  BR 18117, DB 67488

JUVENILE NONFICTION

How To Scratch A Wombat.  French, Jackie.  (For grades 3-6.)  DB 69072

Pocket Babies: And Other Amazing Marsupials.  Collard, Sneed B.  (For grades 4-7.)  DB 66148 (BARD ONLY), DX 66418

Stories From The Billabong.  Marshall, James Vance.  (For grades 3-6.)  DB 71773

JULY 2016 BOOK CLUB TITLE ANNOUNCED!

Please join us on Thursday, July 21 at 7 pm (Central Time) for our Book Club discussion of THE ROSIE PROJECT, by Graeme C. Simsion (DB 78150).

Our Book Club meetings are hosted via toll free conference call.  All you need to participate is a telephone!

To RSVP, call the Talking Book Program at 1-800-252-9605, or email us at tbp.ral@tsl.texas.gov.  RSVP preferred by July 1.

THE ROSIE PROJECT is available by mail on digital cartridge.  It is also available for download on BARD.

Please indicate if you would like us to mail you the digital cartridge, or if you prefer to download the book.

THE ROSIE PROJECT

Graeme C. Simsion

DB 78150

Socially stunted geneticist Don Tillman embarks on an endeavor he calls the Wife Project.  As he quantifies the qualities of a perfect wife, he encounters Rosie, who seeks Don’s help in identifying her real father.  Some strong language and some descriptions of sex.  Bestseller.  2013.

We’re looking forward to having you join us on July 21!

JANUARY 2016 BOOK CLUB TITLE ANNOUNCED!

Please join us on Tuesday, January 26 at 7 pm (Central Time) for our Book Club discussion of THE MIDNIGHT PLAN OF THE REPO MAN, by W. Bruce Cameron (DB 80722).

Our Book Club meetings are hosted via toll free conference call.  All you need to participate is a telephone!

To RSVP, call the Talking Book Program at 1-800-252-9605, or email us at tbp.ral@tsl.texas.gov.  RSVP preferred by January 5, to ensure that we have enough copies for Book Club participants.

THE MIDNIGHT PLAN OF THE REPO MAN is available by mail on digital cartridge; it is also available to download on BARD.

Please indicate if you would like us to mail you the digital cartridge, or if you prefer to download the book from BARD.

THE MIDNIGHT PLAN OF THE REPO MAN

Cameron, W. Bruce

Former college football star Ruddy McCann has become a repo man, bar bouncer, and car thief.  One day Ruddy hears the voice of a dead realtor in his head demanding help in finding his murderers.  But soon the voice begins demanding Ruddy clean up his act—and his apartment.  Some strong language.  2014.  DB 80722