Tuesday, April 25, 2017


In 1985 Canadian author Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian fantasy that takes place in the near future after the United States has been taken over by theocratic fundamentalists and turned into a totalitarian regime. Called Gilead, this country is one in which civil and individual rights have disappeared and those opposed are killed.  Fixated on the declining population (caused by pollution) the Gilead powers-that-be aim to raise the birthrate by forcing women to reproduce.

All women in the story are assigned subservient roles. The main character is Offred, a Handmaid who is required to not only dress in a billowing red robe and a huge white hat that hides her face, but also to bear children against her will. Ordered to have sex with a high ranking commander Offred’s safety and future depend on her productivity. She ponders her old life when she was free to live as she wished and wonders how she can escape her servitude.


The book is a powerful page-turner that easily captures the attention of readers and keeps them filled with fear. It is both thought-provoking and illuminating.


There is no secret about the relevancy and popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale. In a changing political environment where women are marching for their rights, the book has found new readers and encouraged re-reading. Libraries cannot keep it on the shelves and hold lists are long. A new television series about The Handmaid’s Tale has debuted. The Monrovia Public Library owns multiple copies of the book.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


In the introduction to George W. Bush’s book Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to American’s Warriors, his wife, First Lady Laura Bush, says that years ago she would have believed that her husband might have become president, but not that he would become an artist. “No way” is what she said. And so it goes. After Mr. Bush left the White House a scholar suggested that he take up painting, just like Winston Churchill did.  When the President asked about learning to paint friends were surprised, but he went on to take classes from local Dallas artists and studied techniques and color. Other artists mentored him, including one who suggested he do portraits.

What came to mind was that he would paint portraits of veterans, the men and women who had served in the armed forces and become wounded. By painting close-up pictures of these warriors Bush hoped to give insight into their character and determination to recover. He also wanted to use his art as a way of recognizing the service that they gave to their nation.  All the profits from the book will fund veteran programs.

A collection of expressive portraits, each is boldly painted with vibrant non-representational colors and a vivid style emphasizes the eyes. Each of 66 pictures is accompanied by a story, all written by Bush, about the individual warrior and includes biographical and service-related information and how each is recovering. 

The paintings will likely surprise all sides of the political spectrum.   Liberals and conservatives might wonder from what this free-spirited talent sprang, but all will be humbled by this generous tribute.

Monday, April 17, 2017


Nutrition, diet and health seem to be on the minds of not just eaters, but also readers as books about food always seem to top bestseller lists. Here are some of the these latest works on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library.

We grew up knowing sugar was not the most nutritional item we ingested, but author Gary Taubes uses investigative skills to make The Case Against Sugar. Relying on scientific, cultural and social research, including how corporations (Big Sugar) promote consumption, the author explores the history of sugar and its negative impact on American health. Thought-provoking.

Anyone who keeps up with popular culture knows that Oprah Winfrey has had a tempestuous relationship with food and is now a Weight Watcher. Her new book Food, Health and Happiness: 115 On Point Recipes includes her personal history and beautifully-photographed recipes that require lots of ingredients and prep time and include calorie and Weight Watcher point counts. 

Released under the banner of one of the nation’s most prestigious hospitals, The Mayo Clinic Diet is a straightforward book on weight loss. No mumbo jumbo here, but good health and nutrition are emphasized as are tasty eating, motivational tips and a program that works.

Who knew that Judy Collins had eating issues? In Cravings: How I Conquered Food the singer recounts her long battle with food addictions and disorders.  Ms. Collins tells how she has unsuccessfully tried just about every diet and eventually recovered and hopes to provide inspiration for others.