Staff Pick – Laura Jean– RELIC MASTER by Christopher Buckley, DB 83947

It is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation so we thought that patrons who enjoy historical fiction might like a novel dealing with that time and place in European History.  The 2002 winner of the Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence as well as the 2004 winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor, Christopher Buckley has created a witty and irreverent satire of 16th century Europe in his most recent novel RELIC MASTER.

relicmaster

NLS Annotation Switzerland, 1517. Dismas, a relic dealer, balances the demands of his two most prominent clients–Frederick, the ruler of Saxony, and the archbishop of Mainz. When his nest egg is stolen, his friend Albrecht Durer suggests creating the shroud that the archbishop covets. Some strong language. 2015.

If you enjoyed this novel, but would like to learn more about the historical figures that feature prominently in RELIC MASTER told in an informative yet entertaining manner, try HERETICS AND HEROES: HOW RENAISSANCE ARTISTS AND REFORMATION PRIESTS CREATED OUR WORLD part of the Hinges of History series written by Thomas Cahill, DB 78469.

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).

Texas Music and Musicians

Austin promotes itself as “The Live Music Capital of the World,” a reference to the many musicians and live music venues within the city, as well as the TV concert series Austin City Limits. However, the entire state of Texas has a long and varied musical history. It is the birthplace of many singers, songwriters and musicians who represent many different types of music. From traditional country musicians like Gene Autry and Tex Ritter to contemporary R & B groups like Destiny’s Child, The Talking Book Program has biographies and memoirs as well as more general books on Texas music in our collection.

General
Title: NEVER HEARD OF ‘EM: AUSTIN’S MUSIC EXPLOSION, 1994-2000
Author: DONAHOE, SUE
DT 07268 DBC 04845 (BARD)

Title: TEXAS RHYTHM, TEXAS RHYME: A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF TEXAS MUSIC
Author: WILLOUGHBY, LARRY
DT 03981

Gene Autry
Title: BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN
Author: AUTRY, GENE
DB 16849

Rodney Crowell
Title: CHINABERRY SIDEWALKS
Author: CROWELL, RODNEY
DB 73893

Kirk Franklin
Title: CHURCH BOY
Author: FRANKLIN, KIRK
DB 70436

Buddy Holly
Title: BUDDY HOLLY: A BIOGRAPHY
Author: AMBURN, ELLIS
DT 07070

Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins

Title: RAGGIN’ THE BLUES: LEGENDARY COUNTRY BLUES AND RAGTIME MUSCICIANS
Author: WILDS, MARY
DR 04188

Waylon Jennings
Title: WAYLON: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Author: JENNINGS, WAYLON
DB 43334

George Jones
Title: I LIVED TO TELL IT ALL
Author: JONES, GEORGE
DB 42850

Title: THREE OF US: GROWING UP WITH TAMMY AND GEORGE
Author: JONES, GEORGETTE
DB 76171

Janis Joplin
Title: JANIS JOPLIN: RISE UP SINGING
Author: ANGEL, ANN
BR 19426, DB 73764

Scott Joplin
Title: KING OF RAGTIME: SCOTT JOPLIN AND HIS ERA
Author: BERLIN, EDWARD A
DB 42223 (BARD)

Beyonce Knowles & Kelly Rowland
Title: SOUL SURVIVORS: THE OFFICIAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF DESTINY’S CHILD
Author: KNOWLES, BEYONCE
DB 55896 (BARD)

Willie Nelson
Title: FACTS OF LIFE AND OTHER DIRTY JOKES
Author: NELSON, WILLIE
DB 58592

Title: ROLL ME UP AND SMOKE ME WHEN I DIE: MUSINGS FROM THE ROAD
Author: NELSON, WILLIE
DB 75901

Title: IT’S A LONG STORY: MY LIFE
Author: NELSON, WILLIE
DB 81617

Title: WILLIE NELSON: AN EPIC LIFE
Author: PATOSKI, JOE NICK
DB 66762

Tex Ritter
Title: TEX RITTER
Author: Ritter, Tex
DBM 00878 (BARD)

Selena
Title: SELENA! PHENOMENAL LIFE AND TRAGIC DEATH OF THE TEJANO MUSIC QUEEN
Author: RICHMOND, CLINT
Bilingual
DB 44470

B. J. Thomas
Title: HOME WHERE I BELONG
Author: THOMAS, B.J
DB 14755 (BARD)

Tanya Tucker
Title: NICKEL DREAMS: MY LIFE
Author: TUCKER, TANYA
DB 48356

Townes Van Zandt
Title: TO LIVE’S TO FLY: THE BALLAD OF THE LATE, GREAT TOWNES VAN ZANDT
Author: KRUTH, JOHN
DT 07063 DBC 04839 (BARD)

Bob Wills
Title: LONE STAR SWING: ON THE TRAIL OF BOB WILLS AND HIS TEXAS PLAYBOYS
Author: MCLEAN, DUNCAN
DB 48652

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher, DB 70544

The recent release on March 31st of Netflix’s series 13 Reasons, has generated new interest in the book on which it is based. THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. Character-driven with an emotionally intense tone, this book tells the story of Hannah Baker, through a series of audio cassettes recorded for the 13 different people who impacted her life…and in her opinion…precipitated her death.

Cover of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Winner of multiple state book awards for young adults as well as a recipient of a coveted five stars from Teen Book Review, this book is author Jay Asher’s debut novel.

NLS Annotation Clay Jensen receives a box of audiocassettes in the mail with no return address. Hannah Baker–a girl he barely knew but secretly liked, who committed suicide–recorded a final message for thirteen people to listen to and then pass on to the next person. For senior high readers. 2007.

If you have already read this book and enjoy realistic young adult fiction that deals with coping with the suicide of an acquaintance try LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green, DB 61873. Or if you’d prefer the point of view be from the person contemplating suicide, try FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK by Matthew Quick, DB 77255.

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS by Rebecca Skloot, DB 70661

The imminent release of HBOs The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, featuring Oprah Winfrey on Saturday April 22nd has generated new interest in the book on which it is based. THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS explains the origins of HeLa cells, which were ultimately used in developing vaccines, medical treatments, and many other scientific breakthroughs. These cells were harvested from a young African American woman in Baltimore, Maryland, Henrietta Lacks, who was suffering from a particularly virulent form of cervical cancer. This book not only explains the impact HeLa cells have had on the evolution of medical research, it also delves into the way that the medical establishment treated Mrs. Lacks and her family and their fight for compensation and acknowledgement.

Written in a thought-provoking and journalistic manner, Ms. Skloot, does a brilliant job of explaining fairly complex scientific processes and medical procedures in a way that anyone can understand. In addition, she interviews Mrs. Lack’s family with compassion, yet maintains her journalistic neutrality. She skillfully sets their personal story against the backdrop of the racial and medical culture of the latter half of the 20th century. Winning best book awards from organizations such as The National Academies of Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks remained on the New York Times Bestseller List for over two years.

NLS Annotation: Science journalist chronicles the life of African American Henrietta Lacks, who in 1951 had cervical tissue removed and grown in culture–without her permission–producing the first continuously replicating human-cell samples for research. Discusses subsequent medical breakthroughs, including the polio vaccine and AIDS treatment. Explores bioethical concerns involving tissue ownership. Bestseller. 2010.

If you have already read this book or would prefer a book that looks at the broader issue of medical ethics and race, try MEDICAL APARTHEID: THE DARK HISTORY OF MEDICAL EXPERIMENTATION ON BLACK AMERICANS FROM COLONIAL TIMES TO THE PRESENT by Harriet A. Washington, DB 66297.

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi, DB 84732

If you enjoy historical family sagas that feature a host of complex characters set amidst a sweeping storyline, you may enjoy Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel. Nominated for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, Dylan Thomas Prize and Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction, HOMEGOING tells the history of both Ghana and the United States through the eyes of multiple generations of a family as they encounter the racial, religious, and political tensions that permeated both countries from the 18th century until the present day.

NLS Annotation for HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi (DB 84732): In the 1700s, half sisters Esi and Effia are born in Ghana without knowing each other. Effia marries a wealthy Englishman, while Esi is imprisoned in the dungeon of the castle where Effia lives, before she is shipped to America and sold into slavery. Their descendants witness history. Unrated. Bestseller. Commercial audiobook. 2016.

If you have already read this book or enjoy African American family sagas, try ROOTS: THE SAGA OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY by Alex Haley (BR 17794, DB 53160). Or if you’re more interested in reading about a contemporary family bound to both the United States and Ghana, try GHANA MUST GO by Taiye Selasi (DB 76458).

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

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray, DB 85432

Do you enjoy humorous young adult novels that involve absurd situations and over the top characters? If so, you might like BEAUTY QUEENS. Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Young Adult Novel for 2011, BEAUTY QUEENS describes the trials and travails of several beauty pageant contestants, surviving in the wild. Written with a witty and offbeat tone, I quite often found myself laughing out loud at the outrageous adventures these talented ladies encounter. If you’re a proud Texan, you’ll be excited to note that Miss Texas leads this band of intrepid and inventive ingénues.

NLS Annotation: After their plane crashes and strands them on an island, the fifty beauty contestants for the Miss Teen Dream Pageant channel their talents into surviving. But the arrival of some hot reality-television pirates adds new complications. Descriptions of sex and some strong language. For senior high and older readers. 2011.

If you already read this book or simply enjoy humorous young adult books with feminist adventures and subtle romance, you might try I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU, BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU by Ally Carter (DB 66621).