Friday, February 26, 2016


The scholarly and earnest approach to serious topics was upended a couple of years ago with Roz Chast’s graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? about being a caregiver for her aging and dying parents. Now we have a love letter to a Supreme Court Justice in Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Rap fans will know the title is an homage to the late singer Notorious B.I.G. The Court stays in the news, with the death of Justice Scalia, but there always seems to be an interest in the women on the court.

Illustrated with photos recording the life of Ginsburg, Notorious RBG also includes selfies, cartoons and even what looks like a costume contest of ladies, babies and dogs dressed like the esteemed justice. Readers will find more than fun in this book however. It is an astute look at a determined feminist hero who was a winning lawyer before she moved to the court.

Another book that deserves reading is Sisters-in-Law about Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the court, and Ginsburg, the woman that followed her. Author and Court observer Linda Hirshman has written a book that not only probes the legal careers of each justice, but also gives insight into how the justice system works, including information on how nominees are selected (right now a really hot topic) and the role networking and promoting plays in the selection, how justices choose their clerks and how much influence the clerks have.  Sisters-in-Law also shows the respect the two esteemed colleagues had (O’Connor retired; Ginsburg still serves) for each other. If you are wondering: the two other current women justices are Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Monday, February 22, 2016


Have you ever left a doctor’s office and realized you either didn’t ask certain questions or couldn’t remember exactly what the doctor said?  'Tis the season for illness (everyone seems to have something) and it’s a good time to learn how to communicate effectively.

Let’s start with the National Institute of Health’s website that includes some great tips on preparing for your medical appointment, asking questions and understanding your diagnosis and treatment.

The Monrovia Public Library also has some terrific books on the same subject.

The Patient’s Playbook: How to Save Your Life and the Lives of Those You Love is a new book devoted to the idea that individuals can manage their health by being prepared for both appointments and unexpected emergencies. Author Leslie Michelson shows how patients can be their own best advocates in navigating medical care.

What happens When Doctors Don’t Listen? Doctors Leana Wen and Joshua Kosowsky take up the topic and show how patients can empower themselves to be excellent consumers who can have better comprehension of their own care. The book is easy-to-understand and full of great suggestions for communicating with doctors.
In Tell Me the Truth Doctor the author Richard Besser M.D. states that the knowledge about health issues is always going to help patients in selecting the right medical approach. This succinct medical reference books offers information that will help patients ask the right questions.

Friday, February 19, 2016


Whether you read the book and see the movie or do the opposite, the Monrovia Public Library will keep you up-to-date with the books on which Academy Award nominated movies are based. Look to the  January 12, 2016 blog post for the first list of books. 

Is truth more complicated than fiction? Take the life of Dalton Trumbo, the prolific writer whose movie scripts include the classic on DVD Roman Holiday and the novel Johnny Got His Gun. In 1947 he was blacklisted, meaning he could not get a job, when he refused to testify in front of the House on Un-American Activities Committee that was looking for Hollywood communists. Trumbo kept screenwriting, but in secret with phony names, and it was not until 1960 when his real name appeared on the Academy Award winning film Spartacus. His biography Trumbo by Bruce Cook is the story of the writer’s life.

Stories about the Catholic Church and abuse of children continue in the headlines. The movie Spotlight, about the particularly painful events that were covered up by the Boston diocese, is based on the book Betrayal by The Investigative Staff of the Boston Globe. This thrilling book is about the persistent work of a group of reporters who followed the clues to break a huge newspaper story and expose secret crimes.

Michael Punke’s The Revenant is the Western novel on which the movie of the same name is based. This dark story of revenge is about a fur trapper who is mauled by a bear and then abandoned by those who were to help him. The curious title comes from the word for a person who comes back from the dead.

The conversation over diversity and the Academy Awards comes into play with the movie based on the book Concussion by Jeanne Laskas, about the doctor who discovered that multiple head injuries to football players can cause lasting brain damage and death. The film did not receive one nomination, but the book about Dr. Bennet Omalu is riveting.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Poet and university writing instructor Georgia-born Frances Mayes might be best known for her work Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy. Many dream of settling into a small European village, restoring a falling-down house and befriending neighbors, but this author actually did it and her glorious book, full of Italian sights, sounds and tastes, hit a chord with readers. 

Armchair travelers, and perhaps particularly the ladies with wanderlust, will also enjoy Mayes’ other books on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library. The sequel to Under the Tuscan Sun is Bella Tuscany, where our intrepid author returns to her home to garden, cook, learn the language and live the simple life. In Tuscany celebrates, with color photos, the food, farms, markets and festivals of this much-loved Italian region. Every Day in Tuscany highlights Maye’s cooking skills with recipes made in her restored kitchen with produce from her garden.

Mayes goes on the road in A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveler and visits not only other Mediterranean countries, including Spain, Portugal, Greece and Turkey, but also travels north to the British Isles. Talking about the culinary traditions of each country, she also highlights the culture, history and geography of each.
Defying Thomas Wolfe, who said, “You can’t go home again,” Mayes’s most recent memoir is about returning to the place where she grew up. In Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir she revels in the memories and family members from her youth and she explores the places and people that contributed to the person she became.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Growing up as the daughter of Chinese immigrants author Tess Gerritsen was a Nancy Drew fan who dreamed of writing books but was encouraged to have a real profession. She went to medical school, started a physician career in Hawaii and soon found herself the winner of a writing contest. Several published paperback romances later she started writing medical mysteries and that is when she hit the literary jackpot.

Gerritsen’s recent works can be divided into two realms: stand alone thrillers and her Rizzoli & Isles series, the latter of which became a popular television series. Many Gerritsen titles can be found on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library in the fiction, mystery, Large Print, CD and Spanish sections.

Exploring epidemics in Life Support, an unusual illness that results in teenage violence in Bloodstream and skeletal remains found at a home in The Bone Garden, the author has a real knack for writing fast-paced thrillers that take advantage of her knowledge of medicine and forensics. The most recent title,  Playing with Fire, is a departure for Gerritsen as it takes its mystery storyline from a piece of music that relates to the events in Venice’s 1930’s Jewish ghetto.

In 2001 Gerritsen introduced Boston police detective Jane Rizzoli in The Surgeon and in 2002 medical examiner Maura Isles in The Apprentice. Since then the two have anchored such titles as The Sinner, Body Double and Ice Cold. The most recent is Last to Die about some orphans who are the victims of violence. What makes the Rizzoli & Isles series popular are compelling plots, realism and the great relationship between the homicide cop and the doctor.