Saturday, January 31, 2015


Hello Gorgeous by William Mann is just one of the biographies of multi-talented Barbra Streisand on the shelves of the Monrovia Public Library. Also try Streisand: Her Life by James Spada and Barbara: The Way She Is by Christopher Andersen. Each give accounts of the life of Ms. Streisand, born in 1942, whose unique voice and theatrical and movie skills have been recognized with numerous Oscars, Tonys, Emmys and Golden Globes. 

 If you are looking to the Library for materials in different media, the works by and about Ms. Streisand demonstrate the variety of formats in our collection.

The newest Streisand recording is the bestselling Partners where she sings classic and contemporary duets with well-known male vocalists. Although sometimes critiqued as being over produced, this album is for listeners who love to sing along. Other duet Streisand recordings on the CD shelves are Dream With Me with Jackie Evancho and Let’s Talk About Love with Celine Dion. Solo recordings include A Collection: Greatest Hits and A Love Like Ours.

If you love Ms. Streisand’s sly sense of humor, look for the films Little Fockers and Guilt Trip on the DVD shelves.
Finally, if you want something over-the-top, read the lushly illustrated coffee table book written by La Streisand called My Passion for Design. She recounts her long interest in architecture, furniture and clothing design and details the construction of her traditional home on the Malibu coast. Real fans will especially enjoy her pursuit of perfection as she even creates a series of shoppes in her basement to display her antiques.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


In the last ten years Scandinavian mysteries have taken the reading world by storm and presented who-done-it readers with a plethora of new authors. Swedish writers Steig Larsson, whose The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, and Henning Mankell, whose character is Detective Wallender, are among the most popular. Jo Nesbo from Norway is an up-and-coming author with many bestsellers.

Norwegian writer Karin Fossum has established herself as one of the Nordic Noir stars. Her books have much in common with those of the aforementioned authors: bleak landscape and winter weather settings, police procedural formats and a realistic approach, without bells and whistles, to solving crimes. Her books can be found on the shelves of the Monrovia Public Library.

Ms. Fossum began her writing career as a poet before turning to mysteries. Her newest book The Murder of Harriet Krohn, is one in the Inspector Konrad Sejer series. In debt, a man murders a woman and steals her money so he can start a new life. Thinking he has committed the perfect crime, he is surprised that policeman Sejer is using a miniscule clue to begin proving him guilty. Readers who like psychological mysteries will enjoy this novel as well as other Sejer mysteries Don’t Look Back and The Indian Bride.
Winner of the Los Angeles Times prize for best mystery in 2008, The Indian Bride is about a small town bachelor who returns home, much to the surprise of his townspeople, married to a woman from India. When she is murdered a few weeks after coming to Norway, Inspector Sejer tracks down the killer, but holds many of the neighbors responsible for the surprising crime.

Friday, January 23, 2015


The assortment of newer books about death and dying is quite intriguing and many titles on this sometimes uncomfortable topic can be found on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library.
In his bestselling book Being Mortal Dr. Atul Gawande tackles the much-discussed topic of how the medical profession treats aged and dying patients with often unwanted procedures and pills. 

Commenting on how quality of life issues are negated for the elderly, who are often treated as children, he also looks at how attempts to “fix” patients denies the natural course of death. The book provides food for thought for all readers and for those currently caring for family members. The classic How We Die by Sherwin Nuland is another excellent book on the same topic.

From the dying to the dead. With a degree in medieval history, hipster Caitlin Doughty found her calling as a mortician. Her memoir Smoke Gets In Your Eyes throws open the doors on funerals, crematories and preparing the departed for final rest. The host of the web program Ask a Mortician has written a clever book that is both morbidly amusing and endlessly informative. 

Humorous and gentle, The Ten Top Things Dead People Want to Tell You by Mike Dooley is really about empowering the living to be less afraid of death and live more in the present. Also meant to help quiet the pain for people who have lost loved ones, the book addresses such issues as what happens after death, whether beloved pets are waiting and how those who passed on were ready to go.

 And finally, Condolences and Eulogies: Finding the Perfect Words by Bettyanne Gillette addresses the issue of never knowing what to say when someone dies.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Since 1986, Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday has been recognized as an American holiday. Celebrated on the third Monday of January, near his January 15 birthday, it is a time to reflect on Dr. King’s many accomplishments and to note that he was only 39 years old when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

The Monrovia Public Library has an excellent collection of books on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement he led. In light of the current film Selma, one book to consider is Selma 1965: The March That Changed the South by Charles Fager. Written 3 years after the march Dr. King led from the city of Selma to the Alabama capitol of Montgomery, it is an account of that march and the marchers who endured physical attacks only because they were promoting voting rights.

Taylor Branch won the Pulitzer Prize for his 3 volume work chronicling the life of Dr. King and the years in which he was on the forefront of the civil rights movement. At Canaan’s Edge, Parting the Waters and Pillar of Fire are masterfully told books that capture not just the biographical and historical events, but also MLK’s tremendous moral authority.

Death of a King by PBS newsman Tavis Smiley is about Dr. King’s final year on earth. Smiley looks at Dr. King’s trials and tribulations, the criticism he received, his goals and his personal life. This is intimate and engaging look at a man who faithfully believed in non-violence.

Dr. King’s memorable I Have a Dream speech was delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. The Dream: Martin Luther King’s Speech that Inspired a Nation is a history and analysis of that address and how Dr. King wrote it and then made spontaneous changes.

Click on the following to see Dr. King’s soaring I Have a Dream speech:

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Hector Tobar’s amazing writing career might have far exceeded his expectations. He worked as a journalist for the Los Angeles Times for more than 20 years, and during that time shared a Pulitzer Prize for reporting the 1992 LA riots, was the Times bureau chief in Mexico, and a prolific columnist.  It is interesting to note, and a comment on the changing lives of different generations, that Mr. Tobar’s immigrant dad also worked for the Times--as a delivery person. Hector Tobar now teaches at the University of Oregon. His recent books have gained serious recognition.

With his intimate knowledge of Southern California and how geography, economics and ethnicity divide people, Tobar’s novel The Barbarian Nurseries is an insightful look at how those living under the same roof do not communicate or understand each other. Araceli is a Mexican nanny who works for a well-to-do Orange County family whose members are involved in their upwardly mobile lives. Although employee and employers have little interest in or respect for each other, a series of circumstances forces them to re-think their cross-cultural differences.
Tobar turns to non-fiction in his recent and bestselling Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle that Set Them Free. The 2010 news story was witnessed by the world, but Tobar used his skills as a journalist to give another side to the event and report on the collective and individual accounts of the trapped men. Emotions mix with detailed descriptions of the mine in this masterful work. Frequently listed as one of the best books of 2014, Deep Down Dark is a dramatic book that grabs readers.