Monday, February 6, 2017

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: SPOTLIGHT ON TONI MORRISON



Since 1976 Black History Month has been nationally celebrated every February as a time to recognize the accomplishments and heritage of African Americans. Originally called Negro History Week in 1926, it was begun by historian Carter G. Woodson who wanted Black history to be studied in American schools. The month of February was chosen because it included the birthday of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, born in February 1818. 





The Monrovia Public Library has a large collection of works by and about African Americans. Fiction and non-fiction, history, biography, literature, music and cultural and social history can be found. Whether looking for something specific and using the computer catalog, seeking reference help from the librarians or browsing the shelves, there are wonderful books that inform Black History Month.

A child of parents who came north during the Great Migration when African Americans escaped the toxic environment of the south, author Toni Morrison embraced careers as a college teacher and book editor before she was recognized for her majestic writing.  Black characters are at the center of her many novels which have earned the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes for literature. Morrison’s works are noted for their complex narratives, feminist orientation and focus on the African American experience.

Her first novel The Bluest Eye about a young girl who thinks her troubled life would be better if she had blue eyes did not gain much recognition, but her next two Sula and Song of Solomon, a drama about ordinary people, gained attention.  Considered one of her best novels, Beloved is a magical and supernatural story of a slave who tries to kill her children rather than see them live in bondage. Her most recent title is God Help a Child, about a dark-skinned woman rejected by her light mother.
Find Toni Morrison’s books in print, on CD and in e-book formats at the Monrovia Public Library.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

RAINY DAY READING



The heavens opened up and we were deluged with rain. Monrovia’s foothills are green and we are wondering when the rain will return. In preparation it might be a good time to choose some books for a future cozy afternoon in a comfy spot. Here are some random titles, from the Monrovia Public Library, that just might warm up readers.




“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” So says the unnamed narrator of the English classic Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier. This story of a na├»ve young woman who marries the rich and widowed Maxim de Winter and goes home to his Cornwall estate to discover that the memory of Rebecca, the late Mrs. de Winter, still occupies every space. Keeping that memory alive is the housekeeper, the sinister Mrs. Danvers. The book is filled with passion, mystery, and suspense. Never out-of-print since it was published in 1939, Rebecca will keep rainy day readers tuning the pages long after the clock has struck bedtime. 

Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. One Ladies Detective Agency series is a most marvelous set of books that we can call gentle reads. Precious Ramotswe is a Botswanan sleuth, whose tiny investigative company solves local mysteries, has been called the Miss Marple of Africa. Readers will be charmed by the traditionally built main character with the untraditional job. Start with the first title, that names the series, or dip into the 16 other titles as all will beguile.

And, while we are talking about Miss Marple, why not open an Agatha Christie book?  Equal appeal to all, Christie’s novels and short stories of mysterious murders, multiple suspects and many twists and turns will keep readers guessing.  These perfect escape (if escape means finding a warm and dry corner away from the rain and the real world) books include old favorites like Murder on the Orient Express or lesser known like Elephants Can Remember.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND

So who are some of your favorite authors who have written recent books?  Find these titles at the Monrovia Public Library. 


The Wrong Side of Goodby by Michael Connelly
The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer
LaRose by Louise Erdrich

Former LA Times crime reporter Michael Connelly, who has sold 60 million books, returns with a mystery called The Wrong Side of Goodbye, part of the Harry Bosch series. Our dogged LAPD detective, never one to follow orders or suffer fools, is now retired and working as a private investigator and a reserve officer. Following two cases, one involving a billionaire’s lost heir and one a rapist, Harry solves both with his usual dogged pursuit of clues. As always, this is an engaging mystery with a main character who continues to fascinate. Angelino natives will get a kick out of Harry’s endless knowledge of local terrain, freeway shortcuts and eateries.

Louise Erdrich, whose stories frequently are set on the land of the Native American Objiwe tribe, has a new novel is about a man who while hunting accidentally kills the son of his best friend. After reflection and adhering to tribal truths, the man and his wife give their own son, named LaRose, to the family of the dead boy. Tracing the history of the birth family’s ancestral name, the book then shares how the act of generosity becomes a salve for pain. Ms. Erdrich is a master storyteller and this new novel LaRose is compelling and thought-provoking.

Many readers might quizzically react to Stephanie Meyer’s new novel The Chemist as it is nowhere near the vampire theme of her Twilight series. But, this espionage story about a former government employee on the run from those who seek to harm her has all the elements of her original books—great characterization and action that keeps the pages turning. This thriller will have special appeal to those who like a strong, brainy female who doesn’t take a back seat to anyone.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

BEST BOOKS OF 2016: NON-FICTION, PART 3



Let's say goodbye to the best books of 2016. This is a last look at 2016 non-fiction, which you can find at the Monrovia Public Library.

 
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

In recent years there have been some terrific memoirs by doctors, including the bestseller When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.  A driven med student, the author’s specialty was neurology - where precision, speed and endurance matter. Just as he was about to complete his grueling years of study and graduate, he felt a pain in his back. He had stage IV lung cancer; the doctor was now the patient. Completed just before the author died, this deeply affecting life story and reflection on his sudden illness and extreme decline asks “What makes life worth living in the face of death?”  His wife finished the book, her final chapter paying homage to an extraordinary man who wrote and lived with such purpose.

Patient H.M. by Luke Dittrich
Henry Malaison is better known as Patient H.M., the latter being the title of a fascinating and disturbing book about how science gone rogue affected a man’s life. Mr. Malaison became an amnesiac, with minimal short and long term memory, because his epilepsy was treated with surgery that removed parts of his brain. Tracing familial and medical history, this amazing and highly readable book is subtitled Memory, Madness and Family Secrets and will be of particular interest to those who enjoyed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lack by Rebecca Skloot. 

Lindy West's Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman
In her memoir, a collection of her online and magazine essays, called Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, writer Lindy West takes on the world, and especially Internet trolls. A feminist and opponent of fat shaming, rape jokes, and anything that demeans women, Ms. West’s book is filled with great humor as well as pain. Her insight is thought-provoking and Shrill has been praised for discussing what is seldom spoken about publicly and for encouraging others to speak up.