Saturday, September 13, 2014


A mountain climber, Jon Krakauer began his career as a freelancer writing articles about the outdoors. He successfully turned to writing non-fiction books, focusing first on mountaineering and then on diverse topics that spoke to him. His books, which can be found on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library, are compelling and unsettling. This is an author truly capable of making readers feel they are part of the story and the story is always one that twists and turns.

Into the Wild, found on both the print and DVD shelves, is about a well-to-do young man who gives up his worldly belongings to go and live in the wilds of Alaska. After his remains are found, Krakauer traces how the tragedy occurred and ponders the reckless motivations of the main character.

Krakauer’s break out book was Into Thin Air about the tragic death of 8 climbers on Mount Everest. He not only introduces readers to the incredibly difficult and ego-driven world of climbing, but he makes readers feel the fear, the danger and the icy cold of ascending the world’s highest point. Showing how weather, geography and human error lead to death and disaster, this edge-of-your-seat book will keep you reading well past bedtime.  

Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains followed and is a collection of articles that shares the risks and exhilaration of climbing.

The author left his comfort zone to write two very different and disturbing books. Under the Banner of Heaven is about members of a fundamentalist sect who murder a family, claiming they were inspired by divine orders. Introducing us to an alien but real world, the book is scary and informative.  It not difficult to see why Krakauer was inspired to write the story of a pro-football player who abandoned fame and fortune to join the army in Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. The author digs deep to find a complex main character who dies in Afghanistan under murky circumstances.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Arrrr. It’s almost September 19 and that means International Talk Like a Pirate Day. This special occasion was created by two friends whose silliness spread after columnist Dave Barry wrote about their celebration. 

There may not be a Read Like a Pirate Day, but how about a Read About Pirates Day. The Monrovia Public Library has buccaneer novels and non-fiction that will shiver your timbers.
Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote the still popular classic yarn Treasure Island, which introduced readers to standard pirate fare--Long John Silver with a peg leg and parrot, a map leading to buried gold and adventures on the high seas. For those who like their pirate stories a bit more contemporary there are some by popular writers. Dark Watch by Clive Cussler is about modern day pirates who threaten a shipping tycoon. Djbouti by Elmore Leonard is about a documentary movie maker who travels to the Horn of Africa to film pirates as they capture merchant ships. Leave it to Leonard to include oddball characters, including a pirate who drives a Mercedes.

And, if true stories are your thing, there are wonderful histories and biographies. The History of Pirates by Angus Konstam, The Golden Age of Piracy by Hugh Rankin and Under the Black Flag by Robert Lee collectively take you on a worldwide journey from ancient history to the twentieth century, include maps, highlight personalities and satisfy your need for high adventure. The best known buccaneer is analyzed in Blackbeard the Pirate: A Reappraisal of His Life and Times by David Cordingly. 

Avast me hearties: feel free to come into the library in pirate gear and speaking like a pirate. The librarians always appreciate a reason to smile.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


It's intriguing to know where great authors originally blossomed. A Californian who has lived in Nashville, Tennessee since she was a child, Ann Patchett writes imaginative books highlighted by unconventional and sympathetic characters. Ms. Patchett worked at Seventeen Magazine before she burst on the literary scene—with her fourth novel. 

That novel was Bel Canto, whose unexpected plot has made it an individual and book group favorite. At a party in an unnamed South American country, a Japanese industrialist is about to be honored by an opera singer when terrorists break in and take over. Soon the opposite sides bond over music, and politics take a back seat to romance and conversation. A wonderfully original story, this is fiction worth reading again. 

Entranced with Bel Canto, readers went back to Patchett’s earlier works.  Her The Magician’s Assistant is another quirky story, this time about a magician’s wife who, on discovering that her late husband lied about his family, takes a trip to the Nebraska hinterlands to find out what other mysteries he was hiding. A married woman enters a home for unwed mothers and decides to stay and raise her child there in The Patron Saint of Liars. 
The author also writes non-fiction. Truth and Beauty, is a memoir about her long and difficult friendship with writer Lucy Grealy. Grealy’s own Autobiography of a Face is about a struggle with cancer that left her disfigured and rejected. Patchett’s story of their relationship is not a rose-colored look, but rather a funny and painful reflection on the meaning of friendship.

Finally, remembering that writers love readers, Ms. Patchett opened an independent bookstore in her hometown and continually promotes books and reading.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Did you know that Sunset Magazine began in 1898 and was originally a Southern Pacific Railroad tourist magazine that encouraged passengers to visit the West? Named after the Sunset Limited train that ran from New Orleans to San Francisco, the magazine’s original office was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Over the years Sunset transitioned to presenting information about the Western lifestyle and included cooking, gardening, building, traveling and decorating tips.

Sunset also began publishing how-to books that guided readers to take on home projects and started idea houses for the public to visit. The first ever Sunset Idea House in the Los Angeles area is in Manhattan Beach (, and highlights innovations in house and garden design. To celebrate the house, why not check out some terrific Sunset titles on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library. Find inspiration to begin that project you've been thinking about for a while now.

Thinking about bathrooms and kitchens, are they the most remodeled rooms of the house? Try: Bathrooms: Planning and Remodeling, Ideas for Great Bathrooms, Remodeling with Tile, Kitchens: Planning and Remodeling, and Ideas for Great Kitchens.

Maybe the expense and time involved in remodeling is too much and you still want to give some oomph to your interiors.  Look at Ideas for Great Window Treatments, How to Make Pillows,  
 Picture Framing and Wall Display and Complete Home Storage.

And, if the yard calls to you, why not read Fences and Gates, Children’s Play Areas, Patios and Decks and Landscaping with Stone.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


Who knew? It was a surprise to learn that memoir writing classes are all the rage. The Monrovia Public Library not only has the how-to book Changing Memories into Memoirs by Fanny-Maude Evans to get you started, but also has some terrifically touching memoirs where women take their worst experiences and look at them in the most amusing ways.

Anyone who has been a caregiver to an older parent might think that a book about the subject should be avoided, but Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant will be the funniest book that you read this year. Between nodding in agreement, laughing aloud and being embarrassed that author Roz Chast, best known as a New Yorker cartoonist, has captured your secret feelings, you will simply love the graphic memoir that mixes hilarious drawings with astute and zany observations. 

Pasadena author Sandra Tsing Loh, who provides commentary on NPR, has written a memoir for the “sandwich generation.” In The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones confronts it all: menopause, being a mother of teenage children, a marriage on the rocks and taking care of her 91-year-old father. Loh’s dark humor and honesty will light the way for other women in the midst of midlife crises. 

The talented and wealthy daughter of the famous Debbie Reynolds should have a pretty good life, but screenwriter, humorist and actress (Princess Leia in Star Wars) Carrie Fisher proves just the opposite in Wishful Drinking. Sharing her family tree (Carrie’s dad married Elizabeth Taylor and Carrie married Paul Simon) and her own history of mental illness and substance abuse, the author is a true wit whose anecdotes will keep you in stitches.