June is National Audiobook Appreciation Month

Image of a book with a volume signifying an audiobook.

Not only is June the start of summer, but it is also National Audiobook Appreciation Month. With numerous literacy benefits and high entertainment value, audiobooks are heating up headphones and speakers across the state. Everyone is unique when it comes to how they read, and patrons of the Talking Book Program can enjoy the art of storytelling this June by joining the more than 19,000 other patrons meet their reading needs. Whether you need to read in a different way or you open up a book — new TBP patron listeners and audiophiles alike will want to join in the fun. For more information about Texans’ other library visit, www.TexasTalkingBooks.org.

Check out some of the most downloaded books from the collection.

RUN, ROSE, RUN by Dolly Parton (DB 107053)
AnnieLee Keyes is hitchhiking her way to Nashville, determined to make it in the music industry. But she’s fleeing her past, and her rise as a country music star is dogged by the dark secrets trying to destroy her. Violence and strong language. Suspense Fiction. Commercial audiobook. 2022

STEAL by James Patterson (DB 106928)

College sophomore Carter von Oehson posts on his Instagram that he plans to kill himself. When no one sees him for 24hours, a search begins. Fears seem to be confirmed when his abandoned sailboat is found. His professor of abnormal psychology, Dylan Reinhart, tries to help Carter’s father find the truth. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. Bestseller. 2022.

HIGH STAKES by Danielle Steel (DB 107263)

Jane Addison has big dreams of owning her own company someday. At 28, she arrives in New York to start a job at Fletcher and Benson, a prestigious talent agency. There she joins a group of women all facing the challenges of balancing their families, their personal lives, and the high stakes of ambition. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2022.

BEYOND A DOUBT by Colleen Coble (DB 107278)

Bree Nicholls has made a name for herself finding missing persons in the untamed wilderness of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with her search-and-rescue dog, Samson. When a basement remodeling project at her lighthouse home uncovers evidence from a cold case, Bree’s family comes under attack. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2004.

STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW: AN INCOMPLETE COMPENDIUM OF MOSTLY INTERESTING THINGS by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant (DB 103455)

Hosts of the podcast of the same title present a collection of new items of interest. Topics include facial hair, Mr. Potato Head, Murphy beds, how to get lost, mezcal liquor, aging, income tax, pet rocks, cyanide pills, donuts, and the Jersey Devil. Includes supplemental material. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2020.

HAPPINESS BECOMES YOU: A GUIDE TO CHANGING YOUR LIFE FOR GOOD by Tina Turner (DB 107284)

The musical icon gives advice for generating hope from nothing, breaking through all limitations, and succeeding in life. She shows how the spiritual lessons of Buddhism help her transform from sorrow, adversity, and poverty into joy, stability, and prosperity. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2020.


That ALL May Read: Graphic Novels

For the longest time, I believed graphic novels were not for me. I was born legally blind and came of age around the time that MAUS by Art Spiegelman won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992. As a book lover this was troublesome because I want to read ALL THE BOOKS. Just the concept that there were books that were obviously SO GOOD, yet beyond my ability to access, upset me greatly.

So, I tried. I used the vision I did have to read MAUS and later PERSEPOLIS by Marjane Satrapi and FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel. I used a magnifying glass and I asked my roommate for occasional assistance. But here’s the thing: as graphic novels continue to win awards and become a more firmly entrenched format in the public consciousness, it should NOT be so difficult for me to access them. They should be accessible for all.

And the National Library Service (NLS) agrees.

Starting small with books like CAN’T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT by Roz Chast (DB 80646) and Brian Selznick’s WONDERSTRUCKk (DB 74157) which is a combination of standard text and full-page illustrations, NLS made the leap into creating audio recordings of full-length graphic novels with the three volume MARCH TRILOGY by John Lewis (DB 87098). 

It’s not a simple process.

According to NLS Senior Selection Librarian, Jill Garcia, “Unlike commercial audiobook producers, when we do graphical material, we describe all the images. Fortunately, Laura Giannarelli volunteered.”

Once NLS selects a graphic novel to be added to their audio collection, the narrator then creates a script. 40-year veteran NLS narrator, Laura Giannarelli, describes the process:

“It takes me probably an hour to write a script for each ten pages. My method is to describe what I see as objectively as possible. Rather than say, ‘He is surprised,’ I’ll say, ‘His mouth is open, his eyebrows are raised, and his eyes are wide.’ You try as much as possible to give the facts and let the reader interpret. But there’s also an art to balancing the details of the pictures with the forward momentum of the text. As a scene heats up, you drop the details and focus on the words.”

I for one truly appreciate the effort taken to not only describe the illustrations accurately, but to consider my desire to interpret the meaning of the scenes myself. And MARCH TRILOGY was merely the first in what has continued to be a steady stream of full-length graphic novels being produced by NLS including FAITHFUL SPY: DIETRICH BONHOEFFER AND THE PLOT TO KILL HITLER by John Hendrix (DB 94260). I’m particularly excited to read this one as it was nominated by YALSA for the excellence in Nonfiction Award for 2019. And I recently learned that NLS is currently working on recording MAUS.

Now if I can just get a self-driving car, I’ll be all set. 

For more information: https://www.loc.gov/nls/about/news/quarterly-newsletter-news/april-june-2017-newsletter/#_graphic


 

Book Suggestions from our Staff

Staff Recommended Books

With New Year reading goals around the corner, we at the Talking Book Program gathered some personal book suggestions for you. Some of us couldn’t pick just one! All listed titles are available through TBP and are downloadable from the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD). Feel free to contact us to request these titles.


· Kayleigh Matheson, Reader’s Advisory Librarian-

NORSE MYTHOLOGY by Neil Gaiman (DB 87395)

Neil Gaiman is my favorite author and you can pick one of his books at random and be happy. I’m recommending this one to expand people’s mythology horizons beyond the Greek. This is a great retelling of traditional stories and will have you laughing and learning. I named my dog after the Norse goddess, Freya, after reading this!

· Laura Jean, Reader’s Advisory Librarian-

THICKET by Joe R. Lansdale (DBC 00014)

Joe R. Lansdale is a Texas author who writes across several genres. I particularly love his gritty, realistic westerns like The Thicket. This is not for the faint of heart. If you like Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, or western horror as a genre, you’ll most likely enjoy this book too.

· Dina Abramson, Disability Information & Referral Coordinator-

IF YOU TELL: A TRUE STORY OF MURDER, FAMILY SECRETS, AND THE UNBREAKABLE BOND OF SISTERHOOD by Gregg Olsen (DB 98239)

I’m a big true crime fan. I wouldn’t say this is my favorite book, but it is one of the best true crime books I’ve read–a real page turner! It’s about the worst mother in the world and the survival of her three daughters. Note: Not for the faint of heart!

· Victor Hunter, Reader Consultant-

HOW DO YOU KISS A BLIND GIRL? by Sally Wagner (DB 27117)

No, this is not a book about kissing. This is a book by a blind reporter, who describes social interactions that often happen between blind people and sighted people, and the rather humorous results that occur through those encounters. As you read this book, you will not only laugh, but learn a few things along the way.

· Guffie Robinson, Operations Supervisor-

DUTCH HOUSE, by Ann Patchett (LB 12756)

I had never read any of her books before. She was recommended to me as historical fiction, but I would consider this just good fiction in a good setting. The book has well written characters making the plot almost irrelevant.

NO GOOD MEN AMONG THE LIVING, by Anand Gopal (DB 79895).

Embedded journalist tells the stories of US personnel, Taliban members, and local Afghans all amidst the changing warscape in Afghanistan in the early years of the war. Absolutely brilliant and my top recommended read.

LIGHTHOUSE, by P.D. James (LB 12513).

P.D. James is my favorite mystery writer. Her stories are set in the UK and led by recurring characters Detective Dalgliesh and Inspector Miskin. Well written and fleshed out characters bring her mysteries to a higher level of enjoyment.

· Penny Van Horn, Reader Consultant-

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman (DB 87829)

The narrator really makes the book. It’s very funny—and, ultimately, sad. I keep it on hand for whenever I need a laugh.

· Sheila Hubertus, Reader’s Advisory Librarian-

THE ANTHROPOCENE REVIEWED by John Green (LB 13412 and DB 103903):

The Anthropocene Reviewed, expanded from John Green’s podcast of the same name, is a series of essays that review facets of our human-centered planet on a 5-star scale. It sounds like a silly premise, but Green incorporates his personal experiences, giving us an autobiography of sorts and a glimpse at how he manages life with mental illness. A personal favorite line from his review of the Bonneville Salt Flats: “I was thinking about the people I used to be, and how they fought and scrapped and survived for moments like this one.” John Green’s vulnerability in these essays inspires me to fight and scrap and survive for my future moments. I refuse to succumb to the hokey gimmick of leaving a 5-star review for this book of 5-star reviews, so check it out for yourself.

YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED TO LACEY by Amber Ruffin (DB 102254):

You might know Amber Ruffin from her writing gig on Late Night with Seth Meyers or her own Amber Ruffin Show, but have you heard what happened to her sister, Lacey? This book addresses the seriousness of microaggressions and outright racism experienced by Lacey and Amber in a humorous, palatable manner. Nevertheless, this is a sobering and educational book about the realities of American race relations today.

· Darin Spelber, Reader Consultant-

BRING UP THE BODIES by Hilary Mantel (DB 74880)

2012 Man Booker Prize winner.

This is the second book of the trilogy about the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, the chief minister of King Henry VIII. This book, along with the first one in the trilogy (Wolf Hall, 2009), is such a fresh, original take on this well-known historical figure. I love how Mantel brings her readers into Cromwell’s world, providing a fascinating glimpse into his inner life, and into the late Medieval period in England. I’m looking forward to reading the third book of the trilogy, The Mirror & the Light (2020), which I somehow missed when it was published last year.

· Becky Helton, Reader Consultant-

BROTHER SINISTER SERIES by Courtney Milan (DB 84533).

All four books are available on one cartridge. Fun, sweet and happy historical romance. On the steamier end of the genre. I like being taken far away from here and now. I also like that her characters are well-rounded and how she threads the stories together. Always read the postscripts; she tells you where she veers away from history, and how things could have happened the way she has written them. The one about doctors and handwashing is especially poignant. If you want escapism, well-rounded characters, and some steaminess, Courtney Milan is a good author to try.

· Sarah Jacobson, Director-

ISSAC’S STORM: A MAN, A TIME, AND THE DEADLIEST HURRICANE IN HISTORY by Eric Larson (DB 48811)

This is a compelling story of hurricane Isaac, the great Galveston hurricane of 1900. I really enjoyed Eric Larson’s narrative storytelling, chock full of facts and interesting details. It’s a piece of Texas history that changed Galveston forever.

· Sylvia Perry, Bibliographic Control and ILL Librarian-

SERIES: THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON by Robert Caro

So far, there are four books in the series:

THE PATH TO POWER: THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON (DB 18676)

MEANS OF ASCENT: THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON (DB 30837)

MASTER OF THE SENATE: THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON (DB 54174)

THE PASSAGE OF POWER: THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON (DB 74635)

This series is very good. Every book is a page-turner even though they are works of biography and history. I like these books because, as the series title indicates, the books talk not only about Lyndon Johnson, but about what was happening in the country and in the world during those years. I can remember many of those years very vividly. Robert Caro is currently working on the last volume of the series, and I look forward to its publication.

· Garrett Bruner, Audio Production Specialist-

COMPLETE POEMS OF ANNA AKHMATOVA. V. I (DB 33626)

COMPLETE POEMS OF ANNA AKHMATOVA. V. II (DB 33627)

It’s hard to find any comparison to Akhmatova’s body of work, due to the times she lived in and the sensitivity with which she documented them. The most significant events of her era the fall of the Russian tsars, the October Revolution and World War I, the rise of Stalin leading to purges and starvations (resulting in the murder of her first husband and the imprisonment of her own son in a gulag), the second World War following it, and the Cold War after that (the author finally outliving Stalin’s reign). Her poetry takes all this in, and is as unflinching as it is lyrical. And Judith Hemschemeyer’s translation is another miracle, rendering it all very familiar and accessible to an American ear. The suffering put to words and the dignity of pulling through the worst. You don’t need to know about Russian history to be moved by Akhmatova’s poems. You will deepen your understanding with the accompanying Introductions–especially the one written by Isaiah Berlin recounting his meeting Akhmatova in 1945, her demeanor, and the paranoid air of the Stalinist period. And though these appear like two massive tomes (like the size of Tolstoy novels), the poems themselves are short pieces, rarely longer than a page or two. The highlight sequence of her poetry, to me the peak of her work, is found in her 1940s book called Reed, in a sequence called Requiem, where she gives voice to those who had fallen in the 1930s and 1940s.

· Linda Buie, Reader Consultant-

GLASS CASTLE: A MEMOIR by Jeanette Walls (DB 61540 and BRC 00809)

I enjoyed it and have recommended it on several occasions to some of our patrons. The message I think it sends is that no matter what your parents or your childhood are like or how poor you may be, that does not dictate your future. Jeannette Walls grew up to be an American author and journalist.

· Jaclyn Owusu, Public Awareness Coordinator-

THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton (DB 22433)

This classic young adult novel is set in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ponyboy, the fourteen-year-old narrator, tells how it looks and feels to be a Greaser—from the wrong side of the tracks. He vividly describes the guerilla raids into his territory by their traditional, upper-middle-class enemy, the Socs, and of the beating that led to a murder charge and two deaths.

This is not necessarily a recommended book just because it was one of my favorites growing up; but also because of the poem in the book by Robert Frost:

NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY

Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down today. Nothing gold can stay.

Staff Pick — John — THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US: A MEMOIR, by Reyna Grande, DB 85006

National Hispanic Heritage Month was September 15-October 15.  It recognizes the contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.  One such person is author Reyna Grande, who describes her tumultuous journey from Mexican immigrant to American citizen in THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US: A MEMOIR.

Grande tells of being left behind in Iguala, Mexico by her father when he leaves for the United States, or El Otro Lado.  Later, her mother follows him to “The Other Side.”  Reyna and her older siblings, Mago and Carlos, are left in the care of their neglectful and mean-spirited paternal grandmother.

Three years later, Reyna, Mago, and Carlos cross the border with their father and join him in Los Angeles.  Years of hardship and resiliency follow.  At turns aspirational and callous, their father pushes his children to succeed in their new country, and Reyna becomes the first person in her family to graduate from college.

Flavored with a sprinkling of Spanish words and phrases, this is a direct, no-frills memoir.  Grande doesn’t diminish or romanticize the poverty she endures in Mexico, describing bellies bloated with roundworms and scorpions crawling the walls of her family’s shack.

Nor does she shy away from detailing the emotional and physical abuse they suffer at the hands of their alcoholic father.  Grande has a profoundly complicated relationship with her father, one that continues to evolve even when he’s on his deathbed.

Grande’s father told his children that “just because we’re illegal doesn’t mean we can’t dream.”  Her journey from Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico to Santa Cruz and beyond, reveals the truth behind those words.

What makes THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US memorable is the unrelenting bond between Reyna and her siblings.  They refuse to let any distance come between them.

 

NLS Annotation: The author recounts her childhood, when her father left her, and her siblings, and her mother behind in Mexico to cross the United States’ border.  Years later he summons his wife to join him, but Reyna and her siblings are left behind with their stern grandmother.  Some violence.  2012.

LA DISTANCIA ENTRE NOSOTROS (DB 79963) is the Spanish language version.

Meet author Reyna Grande at www.reynagrane.com.

Enjoy an October 2015 BookTV interview with Reyna Grande: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Rv-hP6hflU.

If you’d like to read other accounts of migration from Mexico and other Latin American countries, sample these titles:

WAITING FOR SNOW IN HAVANA: CONFESSIONS OF A CUBAN BOY, by Carlos Eire (DB 57745), offers a starkly different perspective on the immigrant experience.  Born in privilege in Cuba, Eire and his brother fled Cuba when Fidel Castro came to power.  However, a child’s longing for family left behind crosses all cultural and socio-economic lines.

Travel THE DEVIL’S HIGHWAY: A TRUE STORY, by Luis Alberto Urrea (DI 03701), and enter the “complicated, dangerous world of the border.”

ENRIQUE’S JOURNEY (DB 62628), by Sonia Nazario, recounts a young Honduran boy’s harrowing journey to rejoin his mother in America.  (TRAVESIA DE ENRIQUE, DB 76963).

SPARE PARTS (BR 20681 / DB 80725) is the astonishing story of four undocumented Mexican immigrants in Arizona who won the 2004 National Underwater Robotics Competition.

The dangers of life—and travel—in Mexico are explored by Richard Grant in GOD’S MIDDLE FINGER: INTO THE LAWLESS HEART OF THE SIERRA MADRE, DB 67469.

Grande was born in Iguala, Mexico, which made international headlines in 2014 when 43 male college students were kidnapped and murdered.  Although the kidnapping occurred some 30 years after Grande left Iguala, it speaks to the danger and desperation the drives people to “El Otro Lado.”

The Los Angeles Times revisits the mystery of the 2014 Iguala mass kidnapping: http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-mexico-ayotzinapa-20160926-snap-story.html.

Learn more about the notorious Iguala mass kidnapping: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Iguala_mass_kidnapping.

 

Staff Pick — John — THAT TERRIBLE TEXAS WEATHER: TALES OF STORMS, DROUGHT, DESTRUCTION, AND PERSEVERANCE, by Johnny D. Boggs, DT 07156

It’s been said that Texas has four seasons: drought, flood, blizzard, and twister.

There’s some truth in that.  But like root canals and head cheese, bad weather is something I’d rather read about than experience.

That’s the beauty of Johnny D. Boggs’ THAT TERRIBLE TEXAS WEATHER: TALES OF STORMS, DROUGHT, DESTRUCTION, AND PERSEVERANCE (DT 07156).  Boggs puts the reader in the middle of stifling droughts, deadly floods, and fearsome storms—but firmly out of harm’s way.  Just the way I like it.

Boggs shares true-life stories of calamitous Texas weather, from the 1882 Ben Ficklin flood and the blizzard of 1886 to the heartbreaking 1987 Saragosa tornado.  Weathering frigid blue northers and dodging softball-sized hail, Boggs highlights unsung Texans who meet death and devastation with courage and heroism.

THAT TERRIBLE TEXAS WEATHER is spiked with delicious nuggets of Texas history.  We meet the utopian namesakes of Reunion Tower in Dallas.  We learn why San Angelo, not Santa Angela, is the seat of Tom Green county.  And we discover the blessings—and the curses—of drift fences.  Boggs even explores the U. S Department of Agriculture’s “concussive” 1891 rainmaking experiment.

Boggs writes award-winning western novels, but he cut his teeth as a sportswriter in Dallas and Fort Worth.  His experience as a reporter is evident in his tight writing and eye for telling detail.  Boggs also displays a novelist’s gift for infusing his narrative with incisive slivers of humanity.

An undercurrent that flows through THAT TERRIBLE TEXAS WEATHER is the certainty that no matter how dire the circumstances, Texans don’t lose faith in the future.  They find the resilience and grit to rebuild and recover.  Resilience and grit are still core Texan attributes.  Even in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Texans continue to persevere despite that terrible Texas weather.

NLS Annotation:  Through a collection of newspaper reports and eyewitness accounts of victims caught up in some of the most devastating weather Texas has ever produced, this is a sampler of Texas weather through the years.  From the hurricanes of Indianola and Galveston to the tornado at Wichita Falls to the drought and heat wave of 1998, these are the stories of the people who perished and the people who endured, and of their Texas-sized courage and heroism.  Contains some violence.

A sampling of Johnny Boggs’ western fiction includes HARD WINTER: A WESTERN STORY (DB 72627); ONCE THEY WORE THE GRAY (DB 80003); SPARK ON THE PRAIRIE: A GUNS AND GAVEL NOVEL (DB 64703); and PURGATOIRE (DB 73519).

More information about author Johnny D. Boggs is at: http://www.johnnydboggs.com/

A classic account of terrible Texas weather is THE TIME IT NEVER RAINED (DB 49217), by the incomparable Elmer Kelton.  Although a work of fiction, it’s rooted in Kelton’s lived experiences during the 1950s drought.  (Kelton makes cameo appearances in THAT TERRIBLE TEXAS WEATHER.)

ISAAC’S STORM: A MAN, A TIME, AND THE DEADLIEST HURRICANE IN HISTORY (DB 48811), by Erik Larson, is a riveting account of the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900.

Larson discusses ISAAC’S STORM at the 1999 Texas Book Festival: https://www.c-span.org/video/?153573-1/isaacs-storm.

Al Roker of “The Today Show” offers a fresh look the Galveston Hurricane in THE STORM OF THE CENTURY: TRAGEDY, HEROISM, SURVIVAL, AND THE EPIC TRUE STORY OF AMERICA’S DEADLIEST NATURAL DISASTER: THE GREAT GULF HURRICANE OF 1900 (DB 85045).

Texas figures prominently in THE WORST HARD TIME: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THOSE WHO SURVIVED THE GREAT AMERICAN DUST BOWL (DR 01742), by Timothy Egan.

Dig deeper into the American Dust Bowl with author Egan: https://www.c-span.org/video/?200420-1/the-worst-hard-time.

Experience “Surviving the Dust Bowl”: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/dustbowl/

WHAT STANDS IN A STORM: THREE DAYS IN THE WORST SUPERSTORM TO HIT THE SOUTH’S TORNADO ALLEY (DB 83439) is a nonfiction weather thriller.  Author Kim Cross chronicles the swatch of 757 tornadoes that ravaged the South in April 2011.

Staff Pick — John — A WALK IN THE WOODS: REDISCOVERING AMERICA ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL, by Bill Bryson, DB 46519

I recently spent a week in northern Minnesota.  When I wasn’t not-catching fish, listening to loons, or feeding the mosquitoes, I spent quite a bit of time walking in the woods.  It was wonderful.  Breathing air that didn’t taste like car exhaust was different, but I got used to it.

Spending time in nature—whether walking in the woods, puttering in the backyard, or strolling in a park—is good for the body.  And the mind.  And the soul.  Being outdoors activates what’s known as the “happiness effect.”

Even a 15-minute walk in the woods—or on the prairie—helps you relax and offers a much-needed break from the chaos and noise of the “real” world.  John Muir got it right when he said, “of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”

Travel writer Bill Bryson takes Muir at his word.  Having hiked a good bit of England, Bryson stumbles upon an outcropping of the Appalachian Trail (AT) near his home in New Hampshire and decides to tackle “the granddaddy of long hikes.”

Stephen Katz, a ne’er-do-well friend from Des Moines, volunteers to accompany Bryson, and the “waddlesome” duo hit the trail at Springer Mountain, Georgia, intent on hiking the Trail’s rugged 2,190 miles to Mount Katahdin, Maine.

it’s immediately clear that they have no business on the AT.  Woefully unprepared for its rigors, they come to their senses in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and abandon the lunacy of hiking the entire Trail.  They hopscotch their way via cab and rental car to Virginia, where they hike a more agreeable stretch of the Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains, before suspending their odyssey.

Smitten with the AT, Bryson continues hiking abbreviated stretches of it on his own.  He samples the Trail in Pennsylvania (home of the meanest rattlesnakes on the AT), climbs Kittatinny Mountain, and survives the deceptively deadly slopes of Mount Washington.

Months later, Bryson and Katz resume hiking the AT in the notorious Hundred-Mile Wilderness of Maine.  Katz gets hopelessly lost, and they mercifully decide to call it a hike.  Later, mellowed by cream soda, they conclude that although they didn’t hike the Appalachian Trail, they DID hike the Appalachian Trail.

By turns whimsical, scholarly, cantankerous, and philosophical, Bryson paints a thoughtful portrait of the Appalachian Trail, recounting its curious history and uncertain future.  He mourns the passing of the “massively graceful” American chestnut and marvels at the astounding biological richness of the Great Smoky Mountains.  Bryson even knits together earthquakes, Alaskan glaciers, and swimming pools in Texas.

Like the best guides, Bryson leads us on surprising and offbeat detours.  We glimpse Stonewall Jackson, meet house proud loons, and explore the strange, sad town of Centralia, PA.  We also meet some of the Trail’s abundant wildlife, from hellbender salamanders to “dopily unassuming” moose.

Zoologist Desmond Morris observed that “the city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo.”  A WALK IN THE WOODS is an invitation to escape that zoo, and Bryson is a worthy companion.  Just don’t get him started on cabbies in Gatlinburg, TN.

 

NLS Annotation: Bryson relates the adventures and misadventures of two totally unfit hikers as he and longtime friend Stephen Katz traverse the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail.  Returning from more than twenty years in Britain, he set out to rediscover his homeland, but the two men find themselves awed by the terrain and stymied by the unfamiliar local culture.  Bestseller.  Some strong language.  1998.

For information about the 2015 movie adaptation, “A Walk in the Woods,” starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1178665/?ref_=fn_al_tt_3

Hike back in time and enjoy a June 1998 book talk by Bill Bryson at Olsson’s Books and Records in Washington, DC: https://www.c-span.org/video/?105484-1/walk-woods

An amazing and altogether different real-life tale of hiking the Appalachian Trail is GRANDMA GATEWOOD’S WALK: THE INSPIRING STORY OF THE WOMAN WHO SAVED THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL, by Ben Montgomery:

Biography of Emma Gatewood (1887-1973), who left her family in Ohio in May 1955, saying only that she was going for a walk.  Four months later she completed a solo hike of the Appalachian Trail, from south to north—the first woman to do so.  Details her trip and subsequent celebrity.  2014.  BR 21504 / DB 80502

Tom Ryan covers heartwarming New England terrain in FOLLOWING ATTICUS: FORTY-EIGHT HIGH PEAKS, ONE LITTLE DOG, AND AN EXTRAORDINARY FRIENDSHIP (DB 74367).

The Appalachian Trail’s treacherous West Coast cousin is the star of WILD: FROM LOST TO FOUND ON THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL, by Cheryl Strayed.  (DB 80502).

 

Staff Pick — John — JUNCTION BOYS: HOW TEN DAYS IN HELL WITH BEAR BRYANT FORGED A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM, by Jim Dent, DT 07156

Are you ready for some Football?

Of course, you are.  The only thing bigger than Football in Texas is Texas itself.

Football season is finally here.  Fans have lots of options when it comes to reading about gridiron glory.  A hard-nosed, old-school book about Football and Texas is JUNCTION BOYS: HOW TEN DAYS IN HELL WITH BEAR BRYANT FORGED A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM, by Jim Dent.

Hired in 1954 to revive Texas A&M’s moribund football program, Paul “Bear” Bryant decided to “separate the quitters from the keepers.”  In the midst of an historic drought, Bryant took 115 Aggie football players to the Hill Country town of Junction for preseason training camp.  10 days later, only 35 players remained.

Brutal doesn’t being to describe what the players endured.  The practice “field” was a rock-strewn, goathead-encrusted patch of sunbaked dirt.  Temperatures soared well beyond 100°, but Bryant forbade water breaks.  One player nearly died of heatstroke.

After returning to College Station, the survivors battled through a 1-9 season. Two years later, they were undefeated Southwest Conference champions.  Bryant not only revived the football program, he may have saved the University itself.

After the 1957 season, Bryant left Texas A&M and returned to his alma mater, the University of Alabama.  The rest is history.  Bryant won six National Championships at Alabama and is considered the greatest college football coach of all time.

But despite all those glorious Crimson Tide championship teams, that gritty 1954 Texas A&M squad was his favorite.  Bear loved the “Junction Boys.”

With cameo appearances by Bonnie & Clyde,the Chicken Ranch, Elvis Presley, and a hay bale stuffed with $10,000 in hundred-dollar bills, JUNCTION BOYS: HOW TEN DAYS IN HELL WITH BEAR BRYANT FORGED A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM is a treasure for college football fans and Texas History buffs alike.

NLS Annotation: The story of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s legendary training camp in 1954 in the small town of Junction, Texas. In a move that many consider the salvation of the Texas A&M football program, Coach Bryant put 115 players through the most grueling practices ever imagined. Only a handful of players survived the entire ten days, but they turned a floundering football team into one of the nation’s best. Strong language.  1999.

If you view football through burnt orange glasses and prefer a 24-letter alphabet (no A&M, please), turn your Eyes of Texas toward THE DARRELL ROYAL STORY (DT 02830) by Jimmy Banks; or BLEEDING ORANGE: TROOULBE AND TRIUMOH DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS (DT  5515), by John Maher.  Another amazing story of Texans and football is TWELVE MIGHTY ORPHANS: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football (DT 07025), also by Jim Dent.

Elmer Kelton’s novel, THE TIME IT NEVER RAINED (DB 49217; LB 03803), is a superb account of the of the 1950s drought that ravaged west Texas.

Catch a peek of the 2002 television movie, “The Junction Boys,” starring Tom Berenger as Bear Bryant, here: http://www.espn.com/eoe/junctionboys/index.html.

 

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– BLACK RIVER by S. M. Hulse: BR 20669, DB 80695

Do you enjoy psychological fiction with flawed but sympathetic characters set amidst the backdrop of the modern West? You might enjoy BLACK RIVER, by S. M. Hulse. Leisurely paced with a strong sense of place, Black River won the 2015 Reading the West Book Award and was nominated for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize in 2015.

NLS Annotation: Wes Carver has not returned to Black River since he was held hostage in a prison riot while serving as a corrections officer. Now his former captor, Bobby Williams, is up for release, and Wes must consider what he believes and whether he can let Williams walk away. Some violence and some strong language. 2014.

If you have already read this book, or simply enjoy modern westerns told in a lyrical style that delve into the thoughts of the characters, you might also enjoy The Plainsong series by Kent Haruf.

Books to sharpen your self-reliance skills

When we need something — food, clothes, tools, fuel -pretty much anything, we go buy it or we order it on-line. As a society we buy enormous amounts of stuff to cover every necessity and satisfy every desire. Have you asked yourself: what if we were suddenly unable to purchase the things we want or need? Our great-grandparents probably did not see that as an insurmountable problem because they had skills that made them, if not completely autonomous, a lot less reliant on having to buy things; but most of us have forgotten that knowledge.

Fortunately, we can still get some of that information from books, and we have some of them at TBP. Our titles instruct on forgotten skills like surviving in the wild, growing and preserving food, keeping animals, and making some of your own stuff. Check out these titles and you’ll never ever need to purchase anything again! Just kidding; you’ll still need to buy stuff, but you’ll learn useful info and maybe you’ll save some bucks in the process.

SELF-SUFFICIENT GARDENER: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO GROWING AND PRESERVING All YOUR OWN FOOD by JOHN SEYMOUR    DB   21141

Includes vegetables, fruits, and herbs and provides information on soil, climate, cultivation, pests and diseases, harvesting, and storing. Also explains how to salt, dry, pickle, can, or freeze produce.

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH AN OLD RED SHOE? A GREEN ACTIVITY BOOK ABOUT REUSE by ALTER, ANNA   DB   69070

Suggests projects kids and adults can do together to recycle everyday objects–a leftover flip-flop; a worn-out T-shirt, blanket, or shower curtain; tin cans–and turn them into something new. An old red shoe becomes a flower-pot container. Includes general tips on reuse and recycling to prevent waste. For grades 2-4.

MADE FROM SCRATCH: DISCOVERING THE PLEASURES OF A HANDMADE LIFE by JENNA WOGINRICH      DB 68581

Woginrich, a young web designer and homestead blogger, provides suggestions for adopting a self-sufficient lifestyle. She discusses keeping chickens, bees, and rabbits; putting house dogs to work; growing and making food; acquiring old, but useful, items; and making clothing and music. Includes recipes.

LOST ART OF READING NATURE’S SIGNS: USE OUTDOOR CLUES TO FIND YOUR WAY, PREDICT THE WEATHER, LOCATE WATER, TRACK ANIMALS–AND OTHER FORGOTTEN SKILLS by TRISTAN GOOLEY           DB 83474

Professional navigator and travel company executive shares the tips and tricks he has learned over his twenty years of experience about orienting yourself in both urban and rural environments using nature’s clues. Includes information on using your senses, identifying landmarks big and small, and ways different environments affect indicators.

HOW TO SH*T IN THE WOODS: AN ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND APPROACH TO A LOST ART by KATHLEEN MEYER  DB   31791

The author, a long-time outdoors-woman, offers advice on how to relieve oneself when conventional restrooms are unavailable.  Meyer explains not only how to do it with dignity and comfort, but also with environmental awareness.  She includes a chapter especially for women.

ABOMAN’S GUIDE TO SURVIVAL AND SELF-RELIANCE: PRACTICAL SKILLS FOR INTERESTING TIMES by JOSEPH A. BIGLEY     DB 56439

Advice on how to deal with challenges presented by unexpected equipment breakdowns, weather disasters, and other such events. The manual contains information on preparing for emergencies, troubleshooting household problems, and maintaining health through alternative medicine and herbal remedies. Also highlights wilderness survival skills.

CHEAPSKATE NEXT DOOR: THE SURPRISING SECRETS OF AMERICANS
LIVING HAPPILY BELOW THEIR MEANS by JEFF YEAGER DB 72384

Provides practical advice and tips on ways to live on less than you earn. Suggests a change in attitude about money, possessions, and life.

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.