MARCH 2018 BOOK CLUB TITLE ANNOUNCED!

Please join us on Tuesday, March 20 at 7 pm (Central Time) for our Book Club discussion of HILLBILLY ELEGY: A MEMOIR OF A FAMILY AND CULTURE IN CRISIS, by J. D. Vance (DB   85796, LB   08948).

Cover of Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance

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 January 4.)

HILLBILLY ELEGY is available by mail in digital cartridge or large print formats.  It is also available to download on BARD.

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

HILLBILLY ELEGY: A MEMOIR OF A FAMILY AND CULTURE IN CRISIS

J. D. Vance

DB 85796, LB 08948

Memoir of growing up in the Ohio Rust Belt in a family culture rooted in Scots-Irish Appalachia. Explores political themes affecting these community cultures through the lens of personal and familial experiences. Discusses what it took to go from nearly failing high school to graduating from Yale Law School. Some strong language.  Bestseller.  2016.

We look forward to having you join us on Tuesday, March 20th!

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– AGAINST THE TIDE by Elizabeth Camden, DB 77493

Do you enjoy Christian Historical fiction with a romantic twist? You might enjoy AGAINST THE TIDE by Elizabeth Camden. Winner of both the RITA Award for romantic fiction and the Christy Award for Christian fiction, this suspenseful and atmospheric novel follows immigrant and translator, Lydia as she struggles with her beliefs and the persistent problems caused by her tumultuous childhood. She also wrestles with her growing attraction to Lieutenant Banebridge, “Bane”, a man with a difficult past of his own.

againstthetide

NLS Annotation: Boston, 1891. Lydia Pallas works as a translator for the Navy Yard. When Lieutenant Alexander Banebridge requires Lydia’s skills for a case, she becomes his assistant. As Lydia is drawn deeper into Bane’s mission to end the opium trade, a relationship develops between them. RITA Award, Christy Award. 2012.

Set in Boston during the last decade of the 19th century, Ms. Camden describes the role that the legal opium trade played at this time in the United States. It was a fascinating backdrop against which to set Lydia and Bane’s story.

If you already read this book or simply enjoy gentle historical romances with an independent female lead in an urban setting, you might try the RITA Award winner for 2016, TIFFANY GIRL by Deeanne Gist, DB 83138.

THE USES OF PHILOSOPHY IN EVERYDAY LIFE

Does philosophy only belong in the halls of academia? Nope. It belongs in the lives of everyone. It helps us solve our problems -mundane or abstract, and it helps us make better decisions by developing our critical thinking (very important in the age of disinformation). But it’s boring, you say. It’s hard to understand, you say. As it turns out, philosophy does not have to be a big snooze-fest. It can actually be stimulating and fun. Check out one of these five titles where authors make Philosophy 101 approachable, interesting, and most importantly, relevant to your life.

BREAKFAST WITH SOCRATES: AN EXTRAORDINARY (PHILOSOPHICAL) JOURNEY THROUGH YOUR ORDINARY DAY by ROBERT ROWLAND SMITH        DB 71181

Former Oxford Fellow posits that the questions raised by renowned philosophers relate directly to daily life. It illustrates by linking influential ideas to mundane activities, such as waking up with Descartes and going to the gym with Heidegger. Some strong language and some descriptions of sex. 2009.

WHAT WOULD ARISTOTLE DO? SELF-CONTROL THROUGH THE POWER OF REASON by ELLIOT D COHEN        DB 58882

Philosophical counselor’s commonsense approach to overcoming self-destructive thoughts, emotions, and actions by harnessing innate powers of reason and critical thinking. Uses real-life scenarios to demonstrate how Aristotelian logic can be used to combat everyday maladies like guilt, loneliness, grief, anger, social anxiety, and depression. 2003

CONSOLATIONS OF PHILOSOPHY by ALAIN DE BOTTON         DB 51489

University of London philosopher finds practical advice on coping with life’s challenges in the writings of some of the world’s renowned thinkers. Each of the six sections poses a problem and suggests a source of inspiration. For example, Socrates offers consolation for unpopularity, and Epicurus, for poverty. 2000

HEART OF PHILOSOPHY by JACOB NEEDLEMAN            DB 19136

A philosophy professor offers a compelling and thought-provoking study in which he attempts to reconcile philosophical concepts with day-to-day life. Needleman draws upon childhood memories, teaching episodes, and recollections of friends’ deaths to illustrate the relevance of philosophy.

EXAMINED LIFE: PHILOSOPHICAL MEDITATIONS by ROBERT NOZICK     DB 30651

A philosophy professor at Harvard University shares his views on the search for understanding and illumination.  He discusses the topics of happiness, dying, immortality, creativity, faith, sexuality, good and evil, wisdom, and the gulf between the ideal and the real. Bestseller. 1989

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– BEST TO LAUGH: A NOVEL by Lorna Landvik, DBC 02662

If you like books that have a nostalgic and upbeat tone, similar to FRIED GREEN TOMATOES AT THE WHISTLESTOP CAFÉ by Fannie Flagg, you may really enjoy BEST TO LAUGH by Lorna Landik.

You can get a sense of Ms. Landvik’s sense of humor and writing style from the Bio and FAQ section on her webpage. She explains how she gets ideas for her books with the following quote: “I buy them from the Idea Man; two for a dollar. Early in my career, he tried to sell me an idea about a girl with a dragon tattoo, but I bought the idea for The Tall Pine Polka instead. When he’s out on the road, selling stuff I declined to J. K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins, I scavenge around and find ideas in roadside cafes, in a whiff of pipe smoke or ripe peaches, in an autumn vista, in a song fading out on the car radio, in the stillness of my monkey mind.”

Ms. Landvik brings this same wit and whimsy to the protagonist in BEST TO LAUGH, Candy, who with the help of an ensemble of zany friends and her personal “life saber”, embraces her new life in 1970s Hollywood.

 

NLS Annotation As a child, Candy Pekkala seemed to get unhappy experiences in Minnesota, so when a cousin called with a Hollywood apartment, Candy jumped at it. Her new fellow tenants include a female bodybuilder, a ruined nightclub impresario, and a well-connected old Romanian fortune-teller. Candy figured if she always lived by her wits here, she would have a chance to live with them. There are game show appearances, temp jobs and the allure of stand-up comedy. For high school and adult readers.

If you enjoyed this book or generally like humorous books with a host of quirky characters, you might try BIG STONE GAP by Adriana Trigiani, DB 52742.

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– BOY KINGS OF TEXAS: A MEMOIR by Domingo Martinez, DT 07183

New York Times Best Seller and 2012 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction, BOY KINGS OF TEXAS is a memoir about growing up in the rural area around Brownsville, Texas during the 1980s. Written in an engaging and gritty, yet at times lyrical style, Mr. Martinez is unflinchingly and brutally honest about the poverty and abuse he endured during his childhood. However, he is able to see what causes his family’s behavior as well as his own. It results in a fascinating view into the lives of a Mexican American family.

NLS Annotation: Brownsville, Texas. Domingo Martinez lays bare his interior and exterior worlds as he struggles to make sense of the violent and the ugly, along with the beautiful and the loving. Partly a reflection on the culture of machismo and partly an exploration of the author’s boyhood spent in his sister’s hand-me-down clothes, this book delves into the enduring and complex bond between Martinez and his deeply flawed, but fiercely protective older brother. Violence, strong language, and some explicit descriptions of sex. 2012.

If you enjoy this book there is a sequel, MY HEART IS A DRUNKEN COMPASS: A MEMOIR (DB 80854)

October 2017 TBP Book Club Title Announced!

Texas Talking Book patrons: please join us on Thursday October 12th at 7 pm (Central Time) for our book club discussion of ROAD TO CHARACTER by David Brooks (DB   81325, LB   08536)

Our book club meetings are hosted via toll free conference call, so all you need is a telephone to participate.  To RSVP call the Talking Book Program at: 1-800-252-9605 (RSVP preferred by September 21st) 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 from BARD.

NLS Annotation:

The author of The Social Animal (DB 72914) looks at the lives of ten famous men and women known for having overcome personal weakness to achieve outward success and inner worth. Each exemplifies humility, hard work, and devotion to a cause. Commercial audiobook. Bestseller. Some violence, some strong language and some descriptions of sex. 2015.

25 True Tales of Survival

Do you enjoy stories of adventure and endurance through hardship? Here are 25 stories of real life survival. From stories of perseverance through natural terrors such as avalanches, storms, and wild animals to stories of escape from more man-made horrors such as religious sects, kidnappers, and war; this list includes books that will thrill you from the comfort of your own reading chair.

Title: AFTER THE FIRE: A TRUE STORY OF FRIENDSHIP AND SURVIVAL
Author: FISHER, ROBIN GABY
DB 68376

Title: BEYOND BELIEF: MY SECRET LIFE INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY AND MY HARROWING ESCAPE
Author: HILL, JENNA MISCAVIGE
DB 76369, LB 07396

Title: BOY CAPTIVES: SUBTITLE READS: BEING THE TRUE STORY OF THE EXPERIENCES AND HARDSHIPS OF CLINTON L. SMITH AND JEFF D. SMITH AMONG THE COMANCHE AND APACHE INDIANS
Author: SMITH, CLINTON L. (CLINTON LAFAYETTE)
DT 07191

Title: CRAZY FOR THE STORM: A MEMOIR OF SURVIVAL
Author: OLLESTAD, NORMAN
DB 69509

Title: DEEP DOWN DARK: THE UNTOLD STORIES OF THIRTY-THREE MEN BURIED IN A CHILEAN MINE, AND THE MIRACLE THAT SET THEM FREE
Author: TOBAR, HECTOR
DB 80548

Title: DRESSMAKER OF KHAIR KHANA: FIVE SISTERS, ONE REMARKABLE FAMILY, AND THE WOMAN WHO RISKED EVERYTHING TO KEEP THEM SAFE
Author: TZEMACH LEMMON, GAYLE
DB 73665, LB 06821

Title: ESCAPE FROM CAMP FOURTEEN: ONE MAN’S REMARKABLE ODYSSEY FROM NORTH KOREA TO FREEDOM IN THE WEST
Author: HARDEN, BLAINE
DB 76532, LB 07479

Title: HIDING PLACE
Author: TEN BOOM, CORRIE
BR 02785, DB 43746, LB 01593

Title: HOLOCAUST TESTIMONIES: THE RUINS OF MEMORY
Author: LANGER, LAWRENCE L
DB 35346

Title: HOPE: A MEMOIR OF SURVIVAL IN CLEVELAND
Author: BERRY, AMANDA
DB 81802

Title: IN THE HEART OF THE SEA: THE TRAGEDY OF THE WHALESHIP ESSEX
Author: PHILBRICK, NATHANIEL
DB 50271

Title: IN THE KINGDOM OF ICE: THE GRAND AND TERRIBLE POLAR VOYAGE OF THE USS JEANNETTE
Author: SIDES, HAMPTON
DB 79535, LB 08615

Title: INTO THE ABYSS: AN EXTRAORDINARY TRUE STORY
Author: SHABEN, CAROL
DB 77894

Title: INTO THIN AIR: A PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF THE MOUNT EVEREST DISASTER
Author: KRAKAUER, JON
DB 44525

Title: ISAAC’S STORM: A MAN, A TIME, AND THE DEADLIEST HURRICANE IN HISTORY
Author: LARSON, ERIK
DB 48811

Title: LONE SURVIVOR: THE EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF OPERATION REDWING AND THE LOST HEROES OF SEAL TEAM TEN
Author: LUTTRELL, MARCUS
BR 21319, DB 64802

Title: LOST IN SHANGRI-LA: A TRUE STORY OF SURVIVAL, ADVENTURE, AND THE MOST INCREDIBLE RESCUE MISSION OF WORLD WAR II
Author: ZUCKOFF, MITCHELL
DB 73456

Title: MIRACLES ON THE WATER: THE HEROIC SURVIVORS OF A WORLD WAR II U-BOAT ATTACK
Author: NAGORSKI, TOM, 1962-
DB 82289

Title: SEA OF SHARKS: A SAILOR’S WORLD WAR II SURVIVAL STORY
Author: RENNER, ELMER
DB 60551

Title: SEDUCTIVE POISON: JONESTOWN SURVIVOR’S STORY OF LIFE AND DEATH
Author: LAYTON, DEBORAH
DB 48730

Title: STOLEN INNOCENCE: MY STORY OF GROWING UP IN A POLYGAMOUS SECT, BECOMING A TEENAGE BRIDE, AND BREAKING FREE OF WARREN JEFFS
Author: WALL, ELISSA
DB 66943

Title: STOLEN LIFE: A MEMOIR
Author: DUGARD, JAYCEE LEE
DB 73692

Title: TEN DEGREES OF RECKONING: THE TRUE STORY OF A FAMILY’S LOVE AND THE WILL TO SURVIVE
Author: RUMBERG, HESTER
DB 68440

Title: TIGER: A TRUE STORY OF VENGEANCE AND SURVIVAL
Author: VAILLANT, JOHN
DB 74579

Title: TRAPPED UNDER THE SEA: ONE ENGINEERING MARVEL, FIVE MEN, AND A DISASTER TEN MILES INTO THE DARKNESS
Author: SWIDEY, NEIL
DB 79523

Title: WALL OF WHITE: THE TRUE STORY OF HEROISM AND SURVIVAL IN THE FACE OF A DEADLY AVALANCHE
Author: WOODLIEF, JENNIFER
DB 71805

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