Thursday, December 26, 2013


It’s that time when reviewers everywhere list their best books of the year. Take a look at the attached links to some top reviews. Pat yourself on the back for the books listed that you've already read and make a new list of the books you want to read. To see if Monrovia Library has the books you can't wait to read, check our online catalog or visit the library. And how about making a New Year’s resolution to read more in 2014?

Happy New Year and Happy Reading! 

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Do you ever feel like the holidays are a bit much and all you'd like to do is sneak away and curl up with a good book?  The book would have to be diverting and a page-turner--one that's not about cooking, cleaning or buying and receiving gifts.

How about checking out a James Patterson book from the Monrovia Public Library?  Patterson keeps a busy pace with lots of action and suspense. His novel Merry Christmas, Alex Cross may just fill the bill.  Detective Cross can’t seem to sit down and take his first sip of eggnog on Christmas Eve before he's called on to save a local family that has been taken hostage. This is the nineteenth in the Alex Cross mystery series.

Although Stephen King once called Patterson a terrible writer, that hasn't stopped people from reading his books—he's sold almost 300 million. Incredibly prolific, he has two other popular mystery series (The Woman’s Murder Club and the Michael Bennett titles), writes teen books, sometimes partners with other authors to write novels and always finds time to promote reading and books (even those of Stephen King).   

Patterson started the ReadKiddoRead program (at to encourage young people to read. So, maybe you would like to add a James Patterson book to your to-do list for the holidays.

Monday, December 16, 2013


A technical writer whose first book wasn't published until she was 35 years old, Amy Tan burst upon the literary scene in 1987 with The Joy Luck Club.  Translated into more than 30 languages and considered an American classic, the book is about Chinese mothers and daughters living in San Francisco, and their relationships. Ms. Tan recently spoke at a Vroman’s book store event at UCLA (moderated by the always sparkling LA Times journalist Pat Morrison) and talked about what that book meant to her and how it changed her life. 
The Monrovia Library has all Ms. Tan’s books in its collection, including the newest, The Valley of Amazement, the author’s first book in 8 years. The inspiration for the novel was a photo in a Shanghai history book that showed a group of courtesans who were wearing a dress very similar to one Tan’s grandmother owned.  The Valley of Amazement begins in Shanghai and is about an American woman who runs a high class bordello. She and her daughter Violet are separated just before they are to leave for San Francisco and their lives unravel, in very similar ways, over the next 40 years.  Although an epic story, the novel centers on the personal lives of women.

Other Amy Tan books include The Kitchen God’s Wife (a mother feels that she must share her terrible past with her daughter), The Hundred Secret Senses (two sisters, one American and one Chinese, formerly unknown to each other, meet and the American sister discovers that her sibling can see ghosts) and The Bonesetter’s Daughter (a magical story about a mother who must write down her memories so her daughter will know the past).  Tan’s themes are similar, but each book is a treasure.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Duke Ellington. Zora Neale Hurston. Ralph Ellison. The names jump out and remind us they were part of the Harlem Renaissance, a time when African American culture blossomed in New York.  It was the teens, 1920’s and early 1930’s. Many African Americans had migrated from the South and Harlem, which had been a Black neighborhood since the turn of the century, was developing as a center of culture. The desire of Harlem residents to express themselves artistically was ripe. Great writers, artists and musicians blossomed during this era, which also was marked by the search for racial justice and freedom. 
A new book, named by The New York Times as one of the best books of 2013, is Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Harlem Renaissance.  Miss Anne was the collective name used for the Caucasian women who not only encouraged and helped finance these artists, but who also identified with Black culture and progressive politics. Among those aided by the Miss Annes was Langston Hughes.  Miss Anne in Harlem is a thought-provoking book and includes biographies of the individuals mentioned.

The library has several other books on the Harlem Renaissance. One very unique book is On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance by basketball great and author Kareem Abdul Jabbar.  He shares Harlem history and introduces readers to the people who influenced his life.  Highlighted are not just the men and women who made cultural contributions, but also to the athletes and business people of the era.

A Beautiful Pageant:  African American Theater, Drama and Performance in the Harlem Renaissance 1910-1927 by David Krasner also includes sports as part of the culture and  names lesser known singers and dancers.  Library users looking for a good overview of the period might want to read Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, which is a terrific compendium of the history, geography and personalities identified with that time.