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Staff Recommendations

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The Bennett Martin Public Library downtown maintains an ongoing “Staff Recommendations” display – Staff from throughout the library system are encouraged to submit book, audio, CD and DVD/video recommendations for items to be placed onto this display. Items on the display have bookmarks inserted, giving brief descriptions about the item’s appeal factors, and listing similar books, audios or videos that the reader might also enjoy.

This page on BookGuide is used to highlight some of the items that have appeared on our Staff Recommendations displays in the past, including our staff members’ descriptions of the books, plus links to any “official Web sites” for the books, authors or series, if they exist*. Items on both the display and on this webpage may be recent releases, or older titles that deserve another look. Hotlinks on titles or formats (downloadable audio, book-on-CD, Large Print) connect to the appropriate entry in our on-line catalog, so that you may check on the availability of the item.

INDEXES TO PAST STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS: BY TITLE | BY REVIEWER | TV SERIES/SPECIALS ON DVD/VHS | STAR TREK | STAR WARS

March 2017 Recommendations

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer
by Fredrik Backman

Poignant and bittersweet with moments of happiness and fun, this novella by acclaimed Swedish author Backman [“A Man Called Ove”] imagines what it must be like inside a mind that is being destroyed by dementia and depicts how such a person’s family-cum-caregivers provide for and accompany him or her on the long good-bye. The tale focuses on 3 main relationships revolving around the central character, an unnamed man: Grandpa and Noah (“NoahNoah”); Dad and Ted; and “darling you” and “my love” (a.k.a. Grandma). Noah loves math and space and being silly and adventuring, just like his Grandpa, so their times together become all the more precious in memory. Dad and Ted have always had a slightly uncomfortable bond but love each other nonetheless. Man and Wife have loved each other fiercely and happily and forever since they first met. This tale, which the author notes was not originally intended for publication, may be slightly confusing at first until you figure out the alternating perspectives and events. Even though it is a short book, it pays to re-read small segments as you go, to absorb and savor the layers of emotion and meaning, and the beautifully crafted writing/translation. And then read it again a few more times. Those who have gone through a loved one’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease or a comparable condition will recognize and sympathize with many elements of the story, and those who have yet to endure such a challenging journey may become better prepared to make it..

[ official And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer page on the publisher’s official Fredrik Backman web site ]

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Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


A Gift From Bob
by James Bowen [Biography Bowen]

I’ve really enjoyed the first two man-and-cat autobiographies written by British author James Bowen, in which he shared how the love a orange tabby cat raised him from his struggles out of drug addiction on the streets of London to becoming a minor international celebrity. In this volume, Bowen reflects back on one of the last Christmas seasons he and Bob shared when they were still struggling to make ends meet, before their literary fame occurred. // Bowen’s writing style is very fluid and conversation — it’s like sitting with a friend and hearing them talk. His gratitude at how their lives have turned out (even before the fame) is tangible, and you feel like you really get to know not only James and Bob, but the people around them. This isn’t a long or complicated read, but if you’ve enjoyed the earlier books, you’ll enjoy this one just as much. If you haven’t met James and Bob the Streetcat, this is a good introduction to them, and you’ll want to follow up with the two earlier volumes as well.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life and The World According to Bob: The Further Adventures of One Man and His Streetwise Cat, both also by James Bowen] [ official James Bowen & Streetcat Bob Facebook site ] | [ British publisher’s official James Bowen web page \

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


How the Lincoln Public Schools Were Named
by Mike Callaghan and Kathi Friesen [R 371.61 Cal]

This fascinating little 28-page pamphlet is one of the rare jems in the Bennett Martin Public Library reference (non-circulating) collection. Published in 2000, this booklet, published by the Library Media Services department of the Lincoln Public Schools, compiles all the known history about the origin and naming of each Lincoln Public Schools facility (through 2000). Curious about where Lefler Middle School got its name? How about Cavett Elementary? When was there are College View Elementary? Or a Jackson High School? Filled with all sorts of fascinating trivia about Lincoln’s history, if you’re at all curious about how the many different LPS buildings got their names, I recommend stopping in at the downtown library and taking a look at this handy little guide!

[ official Lincoln Public Schools web site — each school has its own page, with some of the same history listed ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


The Clocks
by Agatha Christie

While this novel was an engaging mystery, I was disappointed that Poirot was absent for most of the story. He does play a part in solving the case, but he does not visit the scene or interview witnesses. His friend who approaches him with the case brings him all the data he needs and solves it by sitting in his armchair. It was kind of like The Hound of the Baskervilles in that respect, in which Watson is sent out to investigate while Holmes stays at home just coming in at the end. It was still a good book and I still would recommend it to mystery fans, but just didn’t feel like a Poirot novel. Here is the basic plot: a man is found dead in a home of a blind woman with more clocks than usual in the room. Not only do they need to find the killer, they also don’t know who the victim is or how he came to be there – the secret lies in the past.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Five Little Pigs, by Agatha Christie, or The Valley of Fear, also by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.] [ official The Clocks page on the official Agatha Christie web site ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


Shockaholic
by Carrie Fisher [Compact Disc Biography Fisher]

As with “Wishful Drinking” by Fisher, I opted to listen to the audiobook, since she reads it herself. I think Carrie Fisher was absolutely brilliant, and this book is further proof of that. It’s amazing to me, only two months after her death, that this book was published in 2011…. if only because she mentions her upcoming death at least twice in this book. It was a bit eerie.

Star Wars ReviewsAside from that, I really enjoyed this book. Carrie Fisher was a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is woman who sounds like she took no crap from anyone, except herself, of course. She was a tortured soul, but it seemed like she was really coming to terms with things and getting her life in order. This was, of course, before the 7th episode of the Star Wars saga…

What I appreciated most, perhaps, about this book was the talking she did of other famous people that she knew–specifically, Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and her father (Eddie Fisher), among others.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Wishful Drinking, by Carrie Fisher, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, by Cary Elwes, or But Enough About Me: A Memoir, by Burt Reynolds, all read by their authors as audiobooks.] [ official CarrieFisher.com web site ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Also reviewed previously in April 2013 by Scott C.


Koterba: Drawing You In
by Jeff Koterba [741.5 Kot]

This is a marvelous retrospective collection of examples of Omaha World-Herald editorial cartoonist Jeff Koterba’s work, dating from the 1990s to 2014 (the year this book was published). Koterba provides a lengthy introduction, talking about his history as a cartoonist, and those artists who inspired him as he was growing up (particularly his predecessors at the OWH). He then breaks the collection of single-panel cartoons (each published on its own separate page in this volume) into some broad categories, and provides a page or two of background information about his artistic process for each section.

The book features both B&W and Color cartoons. Koterba does both versions for distribution, both in the Omaha paper and digitally online. He’s also one of a rare breed that still does ALL of his art by hand, not only the pencils and inks but he uses actual watercolor paints to do the color cartoons, not computer software. Political cartoons, especially if the cartoonist is willing to poke fun at all points-of-view, are usually pretty funny, as well as thought-provoking. However, Koterba’s extensive use of Nebraska-centric subjects makes this an even-more-enjoyable collection for somebody who lives here.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the books of former Lincoln Journal-Star editorial cartoonist Paul Fell, of which the libraries have quite a few. Also, Koterba’s memoir, Inklings, is a fascinating read too.] [ official Jeff Koterba web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Mind Your Manors: Tried and True British Household Cleaning Tips
by Lucy Lethbridge [648.5 Let]

This delightful book covers all aspects of cleaning Great Houses or Manors in Victorian England. As a fan of the television series Downton Abbey, I kept imagining the various characters of the show (such as Mrs. Hughes) teaching these techniques to newly hired staff. Not only is this book historically accurate in the methods used to clean every part of the home and the clothes of its residents, the book is also humorous as well. Recipes are provided for various cleaning solutions that are easily created without lots of nasty chemicals. I highly recommend this book even if you are not planning to work as an Under-Butler or Kitchen Maid in the near future.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the materials on our If You Like…Downton Abbey booklist!] [ publisher’s official Mind Your Manors web site ] | [ official Lucy Lethbridge Twitter feed ]

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Hamilton: An American Musical – The Original Broadway Cast Recording
by Lin-Manuel Miranda [Compact Disc 782.14 Ham]

A hip-hop musical about one of America’s founding father? Didn’t sound like something I would necessarily enjoy, since hip-hop is not one of my favorite music categories. But, because Hamilton: An American Musical became an international sensation in 2015 and 2016, I decided to give it a shot. And I am so glad that I did. This is one of the most compelling and engaging musicals I’ve ever listened to!

Lin-Manuel Miranda (The Heights on Broadway, and the soundtrack of the recent Disney animated film Moana), studied the true life story of Alexander Hamilton and found that he could identify with Hamilton’s personality and struggle. Years of writing and sharing with fellow musicians ultimately led to this musical, which on Broadway has been color-blind in its casting, putting actors and actresses from different cultural and racial backgrounds into roles based on what would have exclusively been caucasian figures in American history — Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Burr, etc. This level of creative diversity in and of itself is impressive, but what is most impressive is how the political, military and economic struggles of America’s earliest days are brought to vibrant life with Miranda’s pulsing and driving music.

I challenge anyone with an open and willing mind to not be moved by such Hamilton songs as “My Shot”, “The Story of Tonight”, “Wait For It”, “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)”, “Dear Theodosia”, “The Room Where it Happens”. I’ll even have to admit, when I listen to the show closing number “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”, I get a bit weepy. These songs are filled with powerful lyrics, told in creative and unexpected ways.

Though the original Broadway cast of Hamilton has now moved on to other projects, PBS’s Great Performances on TV showed a behind-the-scenes “making of” special about Hamilton, which features snippets of the show. You can still view much of that special on the PBS website. And, hopefully, touring companies of the show will ultimately take it on the road to either Omaha or Lincoln. In the meantime, don’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy the music behind this 2016 Tony Award Winning Best Musical.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda (the libretto) [782.14 Mir], Hamilton: The History Behind the Revolutionary Musical, by Kristine Dawson [782.14 Daw] or Hamilton: An American Musical – Vocal Selections, by Lin-Manuel Miranda [782.141 Mir]] [ official site of the Broadway musical Hamilton ] | [ official Lin-Manuel Miranda web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Gilgamesh: A New English Version
edited by Stephen Mitchell [299.92 Gil 2004]

This epic poem reminded me of reading Beowulf. They are both quick reads because of the lengthy introductions and notes sections make the actual story is only about half of the book. Gilgamesh is the main character and is a king of super human strength who is not a particularly nice guy. During the book he befriends a man named Enkidu, a wild man of nature created by the gods to befriend and reform Gilgamesh. He’s tamed by a woman from the city who goes to him in the wilderness and later takes him to the city. Gilgamesh and Enkidu have many epic adventures together but in time Enkidu passes away. So saddened and moody by the death of his friend, and contemplating his own life, Gilgamesh undertakes a journey to find eternal life. He is sort of successful, but it does not turn out like he wanted. In the end he realizes and accepts humans can’t live forever but humanity and his city are able to carry his legacy farther into the future than he’ll be able to live. I thought it was a pretty good story with a lot of adventure, different characters, and food for thought. It’s definitely a story with a moral or message to it but different people will interpret it differently. If you like reading classic literature and enjoy philosophical/literary discussions you’ll probably like this book. I think it may work well for a book group book, even if it’s just a two person book group, because there are a lot of potential conversations you can have about it.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, by Seamus Heaney, 829.3 BeoYH, The Song of Roland, 841 Cha 1992] [ Wikipedia entry for Gilgamesh ] | [ official Stephen Miller’s Gilgamesh web site ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


Snow White: A Graphic Novel
by Matt Phelan [j Phelan]

The stark simplicity of this book’s cover caught my eye on the library’s new books display, with a typeface that screamed “1930s”. This book is a re-imagining of the classic Snow White fairy tale, told in a setting of 1930s Depression era New York City. The “evil Queen” is Snow’s stepmother, a vain performer who has become the “Queen of Broadway”, the “magic mirror” is a stock-market ticker-tape machine that spits out messages. And the Seven Dwarfs are seven street ruffians who rescue snow from muggers and take an immediate liking to her. // The artwork is fairly stark — black and white with only a few splashes of significant color added for effect. In some scenes, the artist manages an almost dream-like quality. I’ll have to admit, not ALL of the art appealed to me, so I’ll drop my rating of this from what would have been a 9 to an 8. Otherwise, a very imaginative read. I recommend this for anyone who is a fan of this classic storyline…you may enjoy this twist!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the TV series Once Upon a Time, which similarly takes well-known fairy tales and spins them in new directions] [ official BOOK web site ] | [ official Matt Phelan web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


hooplaBatman: Mask of the Phantasm Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
by Shirley Walker [Hoopla digital streaming service]

Wonderful music from a wonderful movie. Unfortunately the movie is not available in the library’s collection as of right now. You can however listen to the soundtrack on Hoopla by streaming it or downloading it to the Hoopla App. The music itself is mainly instrumental with some vocals, but it is not obvious Batman music unless you are familiar with it already. Since watching the movie I have put the music on a few times while I’m studying because it’s so good. Even non-Batman fans could easily enjoy the music on its own, particularly if you like epic soundtracks, and I would recommend it to anyone.

[If you are inclined to watch the movie, it’s very good and you don’t need to know much about Batman beforehand to understand what’s going on or who the characters are. Quite a bit of the movie is flash backs, so you see the present day characters and the same characters in the past, so everything is well intact in the one film. The movie is from 1993, so the animation is not the new computerized type that we get a lot of today, and I like that aspect too. I would rate both the music and the movie 10 stars, and I’d recommend them to anyone.] [ Wikipedia page for Batman: Mask of the Phantasm ] | [ Wikipedia page for Shirley Walker ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


Screening Room

formatdvdBon Voyage, Charlie Brown! (and Don’t Come Back!)

[j DVD Bon]

I had this movie on tape when I was a kid, so when I saw the library had it on DVD, I had to check it out. There are some movies I enjoyed as a kid and watching them as an adult is just not the same. This one though, was just as good as I remember it being. Charlie Brown, Linus, Peppermint Patty, and Marcie all go to France as exchange students; Snoopy and Woodstock tag along. The girls stay at one house and the boys and Snoopy stay at a chateau. It’s dark and stormy as they arrive at the Chateau after dropping off the girls, and no one is home. Snoopy acts as guard dog, but eventually heads for the pub for a night of root beer and jukebox tunes. It’s mystery and comedy as they try to figure out who and where the chateau owners are. It’s Peanuts, so it’s suitable and enjoyable for all ages.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try A Boy Named Charlie Brown, also on DVD.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


formatdvdMasterminds

[DVD Masterminds]

This is a comedy based on the true story of the Loomis Fargo robbery in October of 1997. David Ghantt – a guard at an armored car company – falls in love with former coworker Kelly Campbell. Campbell pretends to love him back and convinces him to steal the money he transports daily, around 17 million dollars. Campbell is following the orders of Steve Chambers and convinces Ghantt to leave the money with them and that she will meet him in Mexico soon. Chambers sets him up to take the fall, sending a hitman to kill him while he lives the rich life. Now Ghantt must evade both the police and the hitman while attempting to get his life back in order.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Keeping Up With the Joneses] [Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Masterminds web site ]

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Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdTo Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything!, Julie Newmar

[DVD To]

Vida Boheme (Patrick Swayze) and Noxeema Jackson (Wesley Snipes) tie for the winner of a drag queen competition in New York and win plane tickets to fly to Hollywood to compete in a national contest. After the competition they come across Chi-Chi Rodriguez (John Leguizamo), a down-on-her-luck drag queen who lacks confidence and decide to take her under their wing. Instead of flying they decide to buy a car and drive to Hollywood, however along the way their car breaks down in rural Nebraska – it doesn’t actually say it’s Nebraska but since it was filmed in Loma (and Lincoln and Omaha) I’m calling it Nebraska. The town’s mechanic says he can fix it but they’ll need to stay in town until the part arrives. They stay in a boarding house owned by the mechanic and his wife, played by Stockard Channing. The town residents are simple folks who have never seen drag queens before and believe them to be real women. They decide to make the stay worth their while and give the town and its residents a much-needed makeover.

My fiancé was shocked when he learned I had never seen it and forced me to watch it simply because it was filmed in Nebraska. I didn’t know what to expect from the title, but drag queens road tripping and getting stuck in Nebraska was nowhere on my list of theories. Much to my surprise I loved every minute of it. It’s filled with great one-liners and really has you rooting for them along the way.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Rocky Horror Picture Show, Themla and Louise or available through ILL: “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” which was filmed right before this one, people say this was ripped off from it but it was already in production before that was released.] [Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Esquire Magazine article: “When John Leguizamo Fixed Up My Hometown” ]

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Recommended by Carrie K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


last updated March 2017
* Please Note: The presence of a link on this site does not constitute an endorsement by Lincoln City Libraries.

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