Thursday, October 30, 2014

FROM THE HEADLINES: BOOKS IN THE NEWS



There is an immediacy about getting our news from the morning papers or favorite websites, but it is an entirely different experience to read books about past current events. With more time to describe events, books give the news greater depth and analysis. The Monrovia Public Library has some of the latest works that explain the news.

Author Lawrence Wright has written one of the most critically praised books on recent history. Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David is an extraordinary day-by-day account of how a Mideast peace treaty was negotiated by President Jimmy Carter and signed by the presidents of Egypt and Israel. This dramatic chronicle also captures the personalities and character of each statesman.

Shedding light the precariousness of peace is Inside Syria: The Backstory of the Civil War by journalist Reese Erlich. Because the news about Syria is so overwhelming, this book is an excellent choice that succinctly describes the issues, the opponents and the historical background to the politics and ongoing battles.

Let’s turn to the United States for two new books on two of the most discussed issues--gay marriage and gun control. Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality focuses on California and the strategy to reverse Proposition 8 which forbade gay marriage.  Author Jo Becker was allowed to witness the legal and PR maneuvering and her book reads like a legal thriller. 



Despite being a victim of a shooting that caused grievous injuries, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords survived and wrote, along with her husband astronaut Mark Kelly, Enough: Our Fight to Keep America Safe From Gun Violence. Told from the perspective of two people who support the right to bear arms, this book describes their non-partisan campaign to limit the devastation that impacts so many.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

EPIC STORYTELLER KEN FOLLETT



Have you looked at the bestseller list this week? Number one is Ken Follett’s new book Edge of Eternity, which is book 3 in his Century Trilogy. Book 1 and 2 are Fall of Giants and Winter of the World. The Monrovia Public Library owns the entire series, as well as many other Ken Follett titles in regular and large type, in Spanish and on CD.

The Century Trilogy is an epic novel about 5 families from 5 countries who live through great events of the 20th century. Fall of Giants takes place during World War I and the Russian Revolution; Winter of the World follows the families during World War II and Edge of Eternity is set during the civil rights and Vietnam War era. These books are for readers who love a huge cast of characters and sequels.

Ken Follett was born in Wales. He was an unhappy journalist who went to work for a publisher and eventually started writing fiction because he simply needed the money. He didn't know he was going to hit the literary jackpot. His early books, like The Key to Rebecca and The Man from St. Petersburg, set the tone for his future novels as they are thrilling page turners with unlikely heroes and a hints of romance and humor.

World Without End and its sequel Pillars of the Earth take place in the 12th and 14th centuries and are about an English town that builds a huge Gothic cathedral. Both offer a view into the Middle Ages and show the incredible research that goes into Follett’s books.

Now if non-fiction is your thing, try Follett’s On Wings of Eagles about Americans being rescued during the Iranian hostage crisis. This is a favorite book for those who like real life adventure.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL



We all have our favorite television programs and perk up when new seasons begin and fellow fans want to talk. Here are some new books on the Monrovia Public Library shelves about TV shows and personalities. And, there is something for everyone.

Are news shows your thing? Can you believe the former president of NBC said that viewers wouldn’t want news from a woman’s voice? The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and Christiane Amanpour by Sheila Weller is about the women who had to work double time to get noticed and eventually on the air. Other well-known female broadcasters are also covered in this enlightening history.

Are you in an early riser who likes the morning shows?  Robin Roberts of Good Morning America is one of those women in the news sorority and she has a memoir, Everybody’s Got Something. First surviving breast cancer and then a blood disease, the incredibly warm Ms. Roberts reveals her grace and charm, on air and off, as she writes about overcoming illness and returning to television. 

Do you live and die with what happens on Miss Marple? Making Masterpiece: Twenty-Five Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece and Mystery is a memoir by producer Rebecca Eaton. When she took the job she realized that she would be responsible for choosing the English titles filmed for the small screen. The book is quite engaging with lots of stories, like how Eaton originally hesitated about accepting what became the hugely popular Downtown Abbey, which is in our DVD collection.


 And how about you night owls? Read Behind the Curtain: An Insider’s View of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show. The show’s co-producer Dave Berg has written a very funny book about the guests and the good cheer on the set of the Tonight Show. Readers will appreciate how the author accentuates the positive and does not dish celebrity dirt.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

GARRISON KEILLOR: A READER’S HOME COMPANION



Prolific, poetic and slyly silly, humorist Garrison Keillor is best known for his radio show The Prairie Home Companion. Telling tales of farmers, Midwest winters and off kilter families, the Minnesota native punctuates his shows with musical interludes and sound-effects. Keillor’s career extends beyond the airwaves and includes articles for the New Yorker and National Geographic, as well as many books that can be found on the shelves of the Monrovia Public Library.

Inspired by the hometown Keillor created for Prairie Home Companion is a series of books including Lake Wobegon Days, Wobegon Boy and Lake Wobegon Summer 1956. All of them are nostalgic and gentle stories that recall a quaint small community where everyone knows everyone and eccentricity is accepted. The humor is both dry and laugh-out-loud funny and Keillor is an absolute champ at making readers care about and be charmed by mundane moments. 



Two brothers in 1920’s Minneapolis open a radio station in WLT: A Radio Romance. They are not looking for stardom, but to finance their failing sandwich business. To their surprise the station becomes successful and their quirky cast of on-air performers and behind-the-scenes staff provide endless opportunities for readers to guffaw. Keillor further shows his storytelling skills in Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny, a satire of classic detective yarns, but this time with extra hilarity.

Keillor’s mellifluous voice can also be heard narrating Ken Burns’ documentary Civil War, found on the DVD shelves.

Friday, October 17, 2014

THE MONUMENTS MEN: FORGOTTEN HISTORY



The Monrovia Public Library owns the DVD of The Monuments Men, the movie starring George Clooney, which brought attention to a little known group of World War II art experts. Prior to and during WW II, cultural artifacts and architecture were not only stolen and destroyed by the Nazis, but also threatened by battles. It was the job of the monuments men to protect European art. Fictionalized, the movie focuses just on a few men, but there were actually more than 300 men and women in the armed forces who were assigned the task of saving artistic treasures.
 
The movie is based on the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert Edsel. It tells the forgotten story of the art historians, choreographers, artists, architects, museum leaders and professors who abandoned their careers to join this special unit of the allied forces. More than just a history, the book describes the clever efforts of a devoted band that operated by the seat of their pants, with little support, in a race against time and destruction. The book is a page-turner.

The January 2014 Smithsonian magazine, which the library owns, has a terrific article on the Monuments Men. You can also read the article on the Smithsonian Magazine website

There have been many books written on the topic of how the Nazis stole artwork from Jewish families. One of the most interesting is Lost Lives, Lost Art: Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft and the Quest for Justice by Melissa Muller. The author chronicles 15 families who lost their art collections and how their heirs continue to search for the pieces. What makes the book so compelling is how family and art history mix with the tragedy of war. Includes great illustrations and family photos.