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Staff Recommendations – August 2021

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August 2021 Recommendations

Music Lessons: The College de France Lectures
by Pierre Boulez (Music 780 Bou)

Composer and conductor Pierre Boulez was one of the most significant figures in post-WWII 20th century classical music. In the 1950s, he was at the forefront of contemporary composition, both as a composer himself and as a proponent of the work of peers like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio, and Luigi Nono. In the 1960s, he continued to compose while taking on responsibilities as a conductor. By the 1970s, he was one of the most renowned conductors in the world, conducting the BBC Symphony and directing the New York Philharmonic, as well as important chamber groups like the Ensemble Intercontemporain (which he also founded). He was conductor on so many notable recordings of 20th century pieces that it’s hard to find important works he hasn’t worked with.

Boulez worked as a music educator throughout his career as well. In the 1950s, he taught and performed at Darmstadt, which was an important incubator for avant-garde composers in Europe that came to be known as the “Darmstadt School” for its contributions in that era. In the 1970s, he founded IRCAM in Paris, an important facility for research and development of electroacoustic music throughout Europe. He was also the Chair of Invention, Technique and Language in Music at the College de France from 1976 to 1995. And his tenure there is where we pick up the story today: Boulez prepared lots of writings that he used for lectures at the College de France, which are the most comprehensive window into his thoughts about a wide range of musical subjects. The lectures have finally been translated into English, and published in a volume called Music Lessons, edited and translated by Jonathan Dunsby, Jonathan Goldman, and Arnold Whittall. It’s been a very long time since the English-speaking portions of the world got to read some of Boulez’s thoughts in his own words — his last book in English, “Orientations,” was published in 1986.

So this is a big deal. If you’re interested in 20th Century classical music, Boulez was a participant and authority on just about every element of modern music. If you’re a composer or aspiring composer, you’ll additionally find lectures here that are as close as you’re going to get to having a class with Boulez on composition. That’s one heck of a deal with your library card, if you ask me.

In the introduction by Jonathan Goldman (himself the author of the 2011 book “The Musical Language of Pierre Boulez”), we learn that the contents of this book aren’t precisely all of the lectures Boulez gave at the College de France. Instead, he generally wrote one substantial essay at the beginning of each academic year, and gave lectures using these essays as reference points. This book is already a fairly large work, and one can imagine that there may come a time in the future where audio transcriptions of the full lectures might expand a book like this to several volumes of material. Nonetheless, what we find here is carefully written and edited by Boulez, and hopefully translated with as much care, giving us a window into the more theoretical side of his thinking.

Contrary to the title, these aren’t literally music lessons in the sense that you’re going to learn the basics of music from Boulez. Instead, each essay reflects on what he’s working on in his own compositional life at the time, and he connects his own thoughts and directions to more universally applicable concepts that would benefit collegiate music students. Along the way, we get a view of about 20 years in the middle of an astonishing career as composer and conductor, during which his own natural curiosity takes us through a huge amount of musical territory.

The first essay, from 1976, updates us on Boulez’s state of mind and musical thinking in the time immediately after his tenure at Darmstadt (many of his lectures there have seen publication, too). Here we find a restless voice, dissatisfied with both the old and the new trends in music at the time. Music was either getting chaotic (perhaps a subtle jab at the aleatoric methods of John Cage, with whom Boulez had a falling out back in the Darmstadt years), or it was getting too complex, too riddled with esoteric symbols particular to every score. But with frustration also comes some optimism, as he notes that “the future of music is richer than it has ever been.” He devotes his second essay from the same year to the consideration of invention and research as part of the future of music. Around this time, he was helping to found IRCAM, so it makes sense that these ideas were fresh in his mind.

I don’t want to get into a full play-by-play of each essay, as most of them are quite long and nuanced, and your best bet is to read them yourself and follow along on this iconoclastic journey. But a few of the broader themes that come and go over the years include addressing the various techniques, tools and systems at musicians’ disposal to see if they’re enhancing or diminishing creativity and expression, concerns about themes and forms and now they affect listening audiences’ perception of music, thoughts about chance and aleatoric operations versus compositional control, modern interpretive considerations in the performance of early music, and of course the occasional discussion of other composers as reference points when comparing and contrasting all of the above.

If I had to boil this rich, complex text down to two primary themes, I’d say that Boulez was above all concerned about order versus chaos in composition, and within “order,” he was quite concerned about how various formal considerations affected the identity and perceptions of the work. The first of those seems to me a fixation particular to composers, who generally consider the act of composition to be a discipline of control and specificity, but during the years of these essays, we were all still coming to terms with a century that gave us opposite extremes of control, from total serialism to chance operations. And the latter seems to me a concern that naturally arises for conductors, who have to bridge that space between the intent of composers and the perception of listeners. These are indeed fundamental issues to consider for many musicians, and there is a lot to learn from Boulez within the pages of Music Lessons.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try New Music at Darmstadt: Nono, Stockhausen, Cage and Boulez by Martin Iddon or Boulez on Music Today by Pierre Boulez.] [ publisher’s official Music Lessons web page] | [ Encyclopedia Brittanica entry on Pierre Boulez ]


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

Fighting Words
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (j Bradley)

Fighting Words is a wonderfully written children’s novel (not young adult novel) about sexual abuse that could really make a difference in the lives of kids either directly affected or who may know what’s going on with their peers.

Della and her older sister, Suki, are being placed in what turns out to be an incredibly supportive foster home after a series of bad events in their lives. There’s a dual storyline going on where Della is dealing with sexual harassment from a boy her age at school, while she reveals her and her sister’s history to readers. In both situations, a variety of realistic reactions to abuse and harassment are portrayed, not all of them constructive (this includes a teen suicide attempt). Readers also see equally realistic ways to band together with peers and the right kind of adults to stand up to abusers.

While this isn’t a great book for pearl-clutching adults, it’s an honest, sensitive, and important book that respects its young audience. Glad to see it won a Newbery Honor!

[ official Fighting Words and Kimberly Brubaker Bradley web site ]


Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

She Persisted in Sports: American Olympians Who Changed the Game
by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger (j796.48 Cli)

In researching books about they Olympics to help a co-worker with her “Summer Olympics Reading List” booklist, I stumbled across this third volume in the series of short picture book biographies of significant women, written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger.

In their first two volumes, this creative team covered She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World, and She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History. In this latest (2019) entry, they offer up 13 more inspirational real-life stories, though three of those feature pairs (siblings or teammates) instead of just individuals. In keeping with their “She Persisted…” theme, all of the women in their stories were actively discouraged from pursuing their athletic dreams, but through persistence, perseverance and dogged stubbornness, all the profiled individuals surpassed athletic milestones previously thought unattainable or somehow inappropriate.

Individuals (or teams) profiled here include: Margaret Ives Abbott (golf), Gertrude Ederle (swimming), Mildred “Babe” Didrickson Zaharias (multiple sports), Wilma Rudolph (track and field), Jean Driscoll (wheelchair sports and Paralympian), Mia Hamm (and the USA women’s soccer teams of 1996 and later), Kristi Yamaguchi (figure skating), Venus and Serena Williams (tennis), Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings (beach volleyball), Diana Taurasi (basketball), Simone Biles (gymnastics), Ibtihaj Muhammad (fencing), and Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureaux (hockey).

This is a charming an inspirational short read for anyone wishing to celebrate female American athletes, throughout various eras of sporting history. And especially with the Summer Olympics currently providing its own array of inspirational figures right now!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World and She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History, also by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger.] [ Wikipedia page for Chelsea Clinton ] | [ official Alexandra Boiger web site ]

See the new Summer Olympics Reading List on BookGuide for more titles similar to this!


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

The Secret Staircase: A Victorian Village Mystery
by Sheila Connolly (Connolly)

Kate Hamilton has the money in place to begin restoring the Barton House. She decides to begin with the kitchen. After bringing three contractors out to look over the project only one of them seems at all interested in taking on the job. Morgan even brings an endoscope along to check out what’s in the walls. Sadly, his first look into the kitchen walls he discovers a hidden staircase and a dead body. A hundred-year-old body, but still another dead body. After the police remove the dried bones, Kate gets to meet the crew that will be working on the house. Bethany an electrician and Steve and his brother Lars the plumbers. One evening she overhears an argument between Morgan and Steve. That night someone finds Steve’s body on the basement stairs, he’d fallen or been pushed down them.

I felt The Secret Staircase was slow to start. This is the third book and they hadn’t done any renovation on the house or the town. But as the heroine and her trusty sidekick Carroll find the lady of the house’s diaries and more information comes to light it picks up pace.

The characters aren’t as developed as well as they could be, but they aren’t unlikeable. The descriptions of the house are fantastic I can just picture the beauty of the old mansion. The mystery is well done and keeps the reader guessing..

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Walled Flower by L.L. Bartlett, Better Late Than Never by Jenn McKinlay or Draw and Order by Cheryl Hollon.] [ official Victorian Village series page on the official Sheila Connolly web site ]


Recommended by Marcy G.
South Branch Library

by Charles de Lint (E-audiobook)

My science fiction book club recently read this 1984 work by Charles de Lint, who is scheduled to be one of the Guests of Honor at the World Science Fiction Convention (a.k.a. “The WorldCon”) in Chicago, in September 2022. De Lint is considered a master of contemporary Urban Fantasy, in which the creatures of myth and legend exist side by side with our modern world of cars, computers, television and smartphones. He is also respected for his contributions to the literary field of “magical realism”.

Moonheart is actually only his second novel (he’s gone on to several dozen novels), and it feels like an early work. But it feels like an early work by an author who’s having fun getting his footing in the fantasy field. This novel fuses old-world Celtic mythology with new-world Native American mythology, in a plot involving characters on personal quests to learn more about mystic powers they find themselves embued with, and an ancient enmity between powerful demi-gods that’s been building up for thousands of years. There’s a gigantic old Ottawa mansion that exists simultaneously in multiple layers of reality and holds mystical powers of its own against the forces of darkness. There’s an odd grab-bag of characters, ranging from a stodgy old street cop, to a young woman running an antique store, to mob thugs, to an itinerant Celtic musician (who’s also a wizard-in-training).

In the end, Moonheart is an energetic romp, that sometimes feels like it has stepped outside the margins it should have remained inside. But there are so many interesting characters, and so many fascinating things happening to them, that you’ll find yourself pulled along with the story. And if you end up enjoying this, you’ve got a lot more Charles de Lint to catch up on, for both adults and teens. Most recommended of is are his extensive, interconnected Newford stories and novels. It’s clear that he’s definitely had an influence on the many authors who’ve come to popularize the Urban Fantasy genre in more recent years, including Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Carrie Vaughn and so many more.

[Disclaimer: I read this in paperback form, but the libraries currently have this only as a digital audiobook through our Hoopla service. I’m sure the audiobook is enjoyable in its own right, but there were so many characters, with so many unusual names (particularly those from the Native American background) that I really appreciated being able to see the names spelled out!] [ Wikipedia page for Moonheart ] | [ official Charles de Lint web site ]


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

The Bounty
by Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton (Compact Disc Evanovich)

This is a grudging recommendation for The Bounty. As a general action/adventure novel, it is fine, though perhaps a bit simplistic and predictable. However, as a “Fox & O’Hare” novel, it really misses the mark.

This is technically the seventh novel in the series. The series began in 2013 with The Heist — the first five were co-written by Lee Goldberg. Goldberg went on to focus on his own original works after that and Janet Evanovich co-wrote #6 (The Big Kahuna) in 2019 with her son, Peter — that entry was a train wreck. The Bounty teams Evanovich with best-selling thriller writer Steven Hamilton and almost feels like a rebooting of the whole series.

In the first book in the series, straight-laced no-nonsense FBI agent Kate O’Hare has finally caught Nick Fox, a professional con-man who she’s been chasing for years. But instead of him being locked away behind bars, Kate’s superiors decided to put Nick’s glib, larcenous skills to good use — having him set up “big fish” targets that might be outside the FBI’s grasp — Nick is going to con them into giving up their secrets and their fortunes. But he needs an FBI “handler” to watch over him and make sure he doesn’t break too many laws in the process of taking down the bigger bad guys — and Kate is assigned to be that handler, against her wishes.

The first five books were a brilliant mix of romantic comedy/romantic suspense (these are Janet Evanovich stories — and that’s what she excels at!), and an almost Mission: Impossible feel — Nick would put together the biggest con jobs imaginable, tapping into an extensive network of friends and fellows con artists when needed. The cons always seemed to have hiccups and the fun was in seeing the team of con artists (and the reluctant Kate O’Hare) pull off a seemingly impossible job.

The Bounty has a totally different feel — Kate and Nick are still working together, and their mutual attraction continues to smolder — but this time they are teamed up with their respective fathers — Jake O’Hare is an ex-marine who’s always ready to help Kate with a black ops mission, and Quentin Fox is an arts and antiquities dealer who (unknown to his son Nick) has a background in the intelligence field. Through a complicated series of events, the four of them end up on the run, with part of a treasure map that leads to 400,000 tons of hidden Nazi gold…and only one step ahead of the grandson of one of the original Nazis who hid it (and who wants to launch a new modern Fourth Reich).

This novel features no big scale con games — it is a global adventure race against cartoonish Nazi-like villains. Kate and Nick resemble the Kate and Nick from the earlier novels, but only in superficial ways. This is an entertaining romp, and Scott Brick is my favorite audiobook narrator, so he effectively brings the characters to life. But it is NOT like the marvelous first five books in the series. I recommend it for what it is. But wish it was more like what it had been. Nick and Kate (and Jake and Quentin) are passably competent action adventure heroes, but I’d much rather go back to the con game plots.

[If you haven’t already sampled the first five books in the Fox & O’Hare series co-authored by Lee Goldberg, you’ll want to go back and read those. Skip #6.] [ official The Bounty page on the official Janet Evanovich web site | official Steve Hamilton web site ]


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

Music and the Myth of Wholeness: Toward a New Aesthetic Paradigm
by Tim Hodgkinson (Music 781.1 Hod)

From 1968-1978, one of the most interesting bands in the world was a British group called Henry Cow, who combined elegantly detailed composition and wild, almost freeform improvisation in exciting ways. After Henry Cow broke up, cofounder Tim Hodgkinson continued to work in music on a variety of fronts as a composer, as an improviser and performer on clarinets and lap steel guitar, as a recording studio engineer and producer, and as a musical thinker and writer. Regarding that last discipline, he published a book in 2016 entitled Music and the Myth of Wholeness: Toward a New Aesthetic Paradigm, which is a unique and thought-provoking read that seems to combine his early training in social anthropology with a lifetime of participating in and simply being surrounded by music. Let’s talk a little about his ideas that you’ll find in this book, starting with his first proposition as laid out in the introduction or “prelude”:

“The projection of the sacred is the human response to the untranslatability between the two informational modes that above all other factors define the condition of that being’s being.”

What exactly is he talking about here? Music making is a cornerstone of where he’s going with all of this, but first he has to lay out how he feels that we relate to music. In most cultures, there has been a spiritual or ritual relationship with music, that music somehow expresses the ineffable in a way that we can’t quite put into words, yet we have some broadly-shared feelings and responses to it. At its core, there’s non-verbal communication and expression happening here. From another polarity, we have oral and written language-based communication, which helps us to express ideas and feelings pretty accurately among one another, yet it seems like it often falls short of depicting those subtle, transcendent moments. We write around them and hope that the reader can pick up on them.

As mentioned earlier, Hodgkinson’s early scholastic interests were in social anthropology, and in an oversimplified way of putting it, this book combines his interests in music and anthropology or musicology, along with a healthy dash of critical theory and philosophy, to try to identify the “hows” and “whys” about music and its effects on us, individually, culturally, and globally. He begins to look at forms of biological intelligence, forms that don’t necessarily express themselves through the structures of contrived language but are inherent and always working. In doing so, he takes a fresh look at our conceptions of imagination, and differences between discursive, ritual and aesthetic modes of human behavior. Eventually he interprets these modes musically, looking at their effects on improvised and composed music and particularly that interesting gray area that can be found between them, which often demands a new way of listening. Once we’ve had a chance to absorb all of these concepts—and it’s a very novel path down some less-traveled philosophical roads — Hodgkinson then looks at three composers up close through this new lens. John Cage, Pierre Schaeffer, and Helmut Lachenmann, whose bodies of work are quite different from one another, indeed seem to hold up through this kind of conception.

While you’ll find some other books in Polley that approach music from this more philosophical side of things, this is certainly one of the most interesting of the lot. I’m still not sure what I think of it in total, and I’m sure I’ll be reading again sometime after I’ve had some more space to think about how it all works in my own conceptions of music, art, cultural studies, and life. But if you’re the kind of musical thinker who likes these kinds of deep dives, I would highly recommend trying out Music and the Myth of Wholeness. Even if some of its points don’t resonate with you, it’s a lot to think about.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Henry Cow: The World is a Problem by Benjamin Piekut.] [ publisher’s official Music and the Myth of Wholeness web page ] | [ official Tim Hodgkinson web site ]


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

Goldie Vance, Vol. 1
by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams (YA PB (Graphic Novel) Larson)

Goldie Vance is a fresh take on the childhood mysteries of Nancy Drew. Goldie Vance is a 16 year old who uses intelligence, friendship and intuition to solve the mysteries that occur at the Florida resort that she and her father run. She and her friends are people of color, presented as smart protagonists who are saving the day. The illustrations are beautiful, and the story is heartfelt. The mysteries will intrigue the young and teen reader.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Backstagers by James Tynion IV, or Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson.] [ Wikipedia page for the Goldie Vance series of graphic novels ] | [ official Hope Larson Twitter feed ] | [ official Brittney Williams web site ]


Recommended by Caitlin L.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

Radio Silence
by Alice Oseman (YA Oseman)

Radio Silence didn’t go where I expected, but I enjoyed my time with it. It starts with a Big Coincidence. Frances is a head girl (British thing) at her school who lets everyone think she’s only about studying and school spirit, but she secretly makes fan art of her favorite sci-fi podcast, Radio Silence. Soon after the anonymous podcast creator asks her to become the official artist for the show, she finds out she personally knows the creator…from kissing his sister just before that sister ran away from home. So, a bit awkward.

But now the two of them can become fast friends who know each other’s big secret. What follows is a messy exploration of relationships, both platonic and sexual, among a small group of teens. It’s a story about what people are willing to share and want to hold back, even from the ones closest to them. It’s also a story about pressure put on teens to attend university as the one valued entrance to adulthood. I’ve read some other reviews that complain about this story meandering. Yes, it does, but so do real life relationships and sorting out what one wants / who one is. Radio Silence makes space to respect these realities and is a better book for it.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender or I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver.] [ official Radio Silence page on the official Alice Oseman web site ]


Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

Pride and Premeditation
by Tirzah Price (E-book)

What if Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice took place inside London’s legal world? What if Elizabeth Bennet was struggling to earn a legitimate job in that legal world, but Mr. Darcy could either foil her efforts or hold the key to her success? And what if we were to mix in a murder with a sinister plot that will endanger both of their lives?

In Pride and Premeditation, we find Elizabeth Bennet behind the scenes aiding her father’s law firm, Longbourn & Sons, in the early 1800s. For the past three years she has reviewed important legal texts, questioned suspects, and worked as hard and as tenaciously as any man her age. A solicitor position is open, but can she use logic and facts to persuade her father to look on her as a competent employee, not just another lady in society looking for a husband? She hears about just the case that might help her win her father’s favor. Mr. Charles Bingley has been accused of murder, found with the body of George Hurst, his dead-beat brother-in-law, covered in his blood. Bingley proclaims he was merely trying to revive Hurst; and Lizzie believes if she can find the real murderer she can win her father’s approval. But who should stand in her way? Bingley’s life-long friend and lawyer, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, who doesn’t need any help to prove that his friend his not guilty simply by the basis of his character.

In the mix are several of the beloved characters. Beautiful Jane Bennet, Lizzie’s older sister, who will someday have her pick of suitors and save the family financially when her father is gone. Charlotte Lucas, her reliable confidant and best friend, who keeps things running smoothly as secretary at the law firm. Abrasive Mr. Collins, boorishly bragging of his endeavors, even claiming some of Lizzie’s accomplishments as his own. George Wickham pops up as a handsome police runner to offer her support, with his dimpled smile and dubious past.

Icy stares and furrowed brows build to quickening pulses and stolen glances for Darcy and Lizzie as they team to uncover a calculating mastermind — with a bit of pirating mixed in for good measure.

Pride and Premeditation is an entertaining remix of an old classic with what someone writing the story today would want: both Lizzie and Darcy as equals, not one saving the other (even though the author admits that in the early nineteenth century women would never have been able to work outside the house). I found myself reading just to find out how the author was going to portray the classic characters and who was going to turn out to be the guilty party. Pride and Premeditation is the first in a Jane Austen Murder Mystery series by Tirzah Price. Additional titles include Sense and Second-Degree Murder and Manslaughter Park.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear.] [ official Pride and Premeditation page on the official Tirzah Price web site ]


Recommended by Cindy K.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

The Ickabog
by J.K. Rowling (j Rowling)

From the creator of Harry Potter comes a wonderful fairytale called The Ickabog, a story that served as a bedtime story for author J.K. Rowling’s own children when they were small. During the year of COVID when most of us were staying safe at home, Rowling dusted off her notes about the story and released it online in serial form, a gift to all those children who were unable to venture out and discover new books. The story is about two small children who are neighbors and best friends in the land of Cornucopia. The country is ruled by King Fred the Fearless who goes north in his kingdom to seek out the Ickabog, a monster that no one has seen — until now.

The story spans several years as the prosperous country is taken over by evil Lords and driven to poverty and despair. The prevailing themes of friendship and hope make this one of the best fairytales I have read. Rowling’s ability to create memorable characters and witty dialogue make her one of the best writers of her generation. I literally could not put the book down and finished it in one day. The Ickabog is not a light fairytale as it deals with death and child abuse, so caution should be taken in reading this to small children. When the book was published in November 2020, the author included artwork created by children from many countries who participated in an online contest to illustrate the story. I highly recommend this book!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart or Uprooted and Spinning Silver, both by Naomi Novik.] [ official The Ickabog page on the official J.K. Rowling web site ]


Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

175 Best Air Fryer Recipes
by Camilla V. Saulsbury

My 19-year-old daughter moved back home and among her new possessions was a 2-quart air fryer. She claimed it was easy to use (it was!), we first heat it up with “That Button,” then we’d pull out “This Drawer” and put in the goodies, lightly spray them with oil to promote browning, halfway through pull out “That Drawer” again and shake them, then let them finish baking.

It was nearly effortless! The kitchen didn’t get hot. There wasn’t a big mess to clean up afterward. We feasted on fish sticks, hot pockets, tacos, and all the other naughty, frozen convenience foods. But we couldn’t survive on a diet of fatty, fake food so I searched the library’s catalog for “air fryer” and found several air fryer cookbooks.

This cookbook is my favorite and it’s perfect for a beginning user with a basic air fryer. I liked it so well I bought my own copy. It includes an introduction with a very brief history of the air fryer, how it works, choosing an air fryer, and cooking tips. There is also a suggested pantry of ingredients for the air fryer.

The recipes are divided into various categories such as Top 20 Fried Favorites (Classic French Fries, Onion Rings, Jalapeño Poppers, Beer-Battered Fried Fish, Light and Crispy Fried Catfish, Buffalo Chicken Wings, and many more – and most of my air fryer cooking began with this section). Other categories include Breakfast and Brunch; Appetizers and Snacks; Entrees; Vegetables and Sides; Desserts; Sauces, Dips and More.

The very first recipe I tried was the Buttermilk Fried Chicken. It turned out so juicy and tender with a flavorful coating that didn’t overpower the meat – we’ve all had those entrees that were mostly breading and not much chicken (though I used a boneless chicken breast half instead of the thighs or drumsticks). This was an easy, delicious starter dish.

The recipes don’t include weird expensive ingredients you have to hunt for, with multiple, complicated steps. My only complaint is, while there are photos of several of the recipes, there was not a photo of each one. I feel a cookbook should have a picture of every recipe it’s talking about. But other than that, this is a good place to start with making real meals with your basic air fryer, and not simply heating frozen items for a Friday night.

Warning. You may enjoy this so much you’ll want to upgrade to a bigger, higher level (“more expensive”) air fryer.

[ publisher’s official 175 Best Air Fryer Recipes web page ] | [ PowerHungry – Camilla V. Saulsbury’s official web site ]


Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

The Paris Library
by Janet Skeslien Charles (Skeslien Charles)

You may find yourself asking, “what would I have done” when you read The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles. Would you go to the same lengths as these librarians did to help Jewish patrons and to protect the library’s collection, risking an uncertain end? The story depicts the survival of the American Library in Paris during World War II and the Nazi’s occupation of Paris.

It follows young Odile Souchet in 1939, newly employed in the periodical room. As Odile adjusts to working in the library, she also worries about her brother who enlists in the war. All too soon the Germans overrun Paris and the atrocities of war hit close to home. So when Jewish patrons are blocked from coming to the library and much of the collection is in danger of being destroyed, we discover the lengths that Odile and other librarians at the American Library in Paris will go to in order to help and provide materials to their Jewish subscribers and other international patrons.

The book alternates chapters, exchanging stories with teenage Lily. In 1983 in Froid, Montana, Lily mourns her mother. Lily has to learn how to live with a new family when her father remarries and she becomes a big sister, as well as how to survive her high school years. Here Odile is now a widow, Mrs. Gustafson “the War Bride,” and lives a very solitary life. She befriends teenage Lily. It starts with French lessons, but eventually Odile teaches Lily how to survive when your life is torn apart.

The Paris Library is fiction; however, it is based on the actual people who worked in the American Library in Paris and historical events that took place there. The author states she wrote the book to shed light on the brave librarians, and to show how the relationships we have during our lifetime make us who we are, helping or hindering those around us. I would recommend the book to anyone looking for a different perspective and who is interested in historical fiction from World War II.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin or The Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly.] [ official Janet Skeslien Charles web site (also official The Paris Library site) ]


Recommended by Cindy K.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

Redbone: The True Story of a Native American Rock Band
by Christian Staebler (YA PB (Graphic Novel) Staebler)

This gorgeously illustrated graphic novel tells the story of 60s and 70s era rock band Redbone, best known for their hit “Come and Get Your Love.” The story follows the beginnings of the band, the heyday and all the different, varied artists they worked with throughout their career up to their involvement in various indigenous rights activities. The book is quick informative read and good for anyone interested in a music or First Nations history read.

[ publisher’s official Redbone book web site ] | [ English translation of official Christian Staebler French language web site ] [ semi-official Redbone band history site ]


Recommended by Caitlin L.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

Music, Math and Mind: The Physics and Neuroscience of Music
by David Sulzer (Music 781.1 Sul) (a.k.a. David Soldier)

Over the last decade or so, there have been a few notable books that attempted to look at music from the perspective of the sciences: Oliver Sack’s Musicophilia comes immediately to mind, full of stories of music having seemingly unusual effects on the emotions or thinking of psychology patients or those with neurological disorders. Then we have books like Music Genome Project head Nolan Gasser’s Why You Like It: The Science and Culture of Musical Taste, in which he explains the kinds of musical markers he and other researchers are finding that point toward achieving relatively consistent reactions from listeners. Clearly there’s something to that work, as the algorithms simmering under the hood of services like Spotify or Apple Music depend on these things to keep listeners engaged. We have a whole section in the Polley Music Library of books that investigate this confluence between music, psychology, science, and how music helps to inform the human experience, and I always love reading these. I think they’re fun for both musicians and non-musicians alike. If you ever happen to drop by and want to check out some books like this, try looking around the 781.1 or 781.11 area, and you’ll find a bunch.

Today I want to highlight the latest addition to this part of our collection, a great new book called Music, Math and Mind: The Physics and Neuroscience of Music by David Sulzer. The author seems like the perfect person to add to our common understanding of these issues, as he’s lived a life with a foot firmly in both camps: by day, most probably know him as a professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Pharmacology at Columbia University Medical Center. But many others know him as Dave Soldier, the name under which he has led a rich musical career for decades. He’s been on hundreds of records spanning a wide range of genres. He has participated in some really unusual kinds of musical projects, too, like the Thai Elephant Orchestra, which is incredibly just what it sounds like, a group comprised of up to 18 elephants in northern Thailand improvising on musical instruments which have been made to a larger, more elephant-friendly scale.

Our humble but highly-qualified narrator starts his introduction by telling us that “no one needs this book”—you can enjoy music, or make music without ever knowing anything in here, and you’ll be fine. This is followed by recounting the Renaissance origins of the conservatory system that’s still the basic model for music education. Simply put, it was a system of educating orphans about music so they could work as musicians. I never thought about the implications of this before: we think of these places as fine art institutions, and of course in their way they are, but fundamentally they’re built on a trade school model. Then Sulzer contrasts this mode of music education with other kinds of intuitive or instinctual kinds of music-making. I’m already feeling good about the possibilities that lie ahead, and we’re only on page 2. What was that about no one needing this book, again?

A few pages later, we get a list of the main questions Sulzer will address through the course of the book, including things like:

“Which sounds are in and out of tune, and how are musical scales derived?
How does the brain understand what it is listening to?
How are emotions carried by music?
How are we able to identify many sounds that occur simultaneously?”

And many more.

Once we get into the heart of the book, Sulzer takes a gentle but systematic approach that’s both satisfying for musicians and gentle enough for non-musicians to follow along with most concepts. Starting with properties of sound waves in general, he then focuses in on the spectrum of sound waves used in music, which leads to harmonic overtones, which then leads to scales, harmony, and tuning issues. Along the way, sidebars called “math boxes” focus in on specific concepts, and chapters all end with listening recommendations to put concepts into an immediate context.

Eventually we switch from harmonic concepts to rhythms, and most of our journey through this first half of the book relates more to the physics of sound. Then the second half of the book addresses more of the neuroscience aspects of sound and music, which are in some cases less thoroughly understood by the scientific community, but we can start putting together what is known to get some good ideas. Starting with how the human brain’s function relates to concepts of rhythm, and what chemical transmitters are associated with delivering and storing emotional responses in the brain, Sulzer gradually brings the physics and the neuroscience together. There’s a particularly good narrative in chapter 9 that follows a sound traveling into the brain, detailing its typical neural pathway in detail.

The final chapters offer a quick overview of sound-related neural disorders and how these can affect the understanding and appreciation of music for those with such conditions, and an overview of what we understand so far about several animals’ relationships to music and sound. As you might expect, Sulzer gets into more detail here about the Thai Elephant Orchestra project, which is fascinating to read. We may not be able to determine definitively how many animals are reacting to music, but certainly it seems like there are some noteworthy relationships in the animal kingdom.

In the end, as Sulzer suggests at the beginning of the book, you might learn a lot of interesting facts about sound, music, the physics of how it interacts with our bodies, and the neuroscience of how it’s processed in our minds through this book, and you probably don’t need to know any of this stuff to be a successful and satisfied musician. But it seems like knowing about these issues is likely to greatly enhance your relationship with music, too, and impart as much specificity as we presently have toward how it works its magic inside our bodies and minds. And that’s always a good thing.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks, Why You Like It: The Science and Culture of Musical Taste by Nolan Gasser or The Music Instinct: How Music Works and Why We Can’t Do Without It by Philip Ball.] [ publisher’s official Music, Math and Mind web page ] | [ official David Sulzer page at the Columbia University web site ]


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

Eight Perfect Murders
by Peter Swanson (Swanson)

This is a good book! A little creepy, definitely unexpected, but worth the read if you are a mystery book lover.

Another librarian recommended this book to me and I was not disappointed. I do not want to disclose much about the plot, because it may ruin your experience. I will say that the basic premise is that Malcolm Kershaw, owner of the Old Devils Bookstore in Boston, is approached by FBI Special Agent Gwen Mulvey. Mulvey tells him that she is tracking a killer. She believes that a killer is basing his or her murders on a blog post Kershaw made years ago. Kershaw created the “Eight Perfect Murders” post when his book store opened up in 2004, listing what he considered perfect foolproof murders in crime fiction. But now it appears someone is using the premises of those eight books to commit murders that are largely going unsolved; and most likely it is someone he knows.

Eight Perfect Murders is a page turner. I read the entire book in one sitting. The farther you get into the book, the more plot twists you encounter. You can guess how it will turn out–you may be right; you may be wrong. I was wrong, sort of.

I also greatly enjoyed how Peter Swanson pays homage to some of the classics of the mystery genre: The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne, Malice Aforethought by Anthony Berkeley Cox, The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, The Murder of Robert Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith, The Drowner by John D. MacDonald, Deathtrap by Ira Levin and The Secret History by Donna Tartt. You don’t have to read the featured books first, but your experience would be the richer for it! And if you haven’t read them all yet, chances are good you are going to want to read them afterwards.

[ official Eight Perfect Murders page on the official Peter Swanson web site ]


Recommended by Cindy K.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

Hummingbird Salamander
by Jeff VanderMeer (VanderMeer)

Hummingbird Salamander is a book that I gave up on the first time around, saw more positive reviews, and ended up absolutely loving when I took another run at getting into its literary style. It was like one of those beers that tastes overwhelming and awful on first sip, but becomes a favorite. I would call its writing style noir-cinematic because it follows that heavily introspective, cynical, paranoid style of noir fiction but includes imagery that isn’t easy to put into context at first, like an art film that flashes forward and back before you feel established as a viewer. It’s writing for tone and writing for the re-read.

This is a story about a high tech security consultant who’s handed a mysterious note. The note takes her to a storage facility where she finds a taxidermied hummingbird. A probably-extinct, illegal-to-possess species. She becomes obsessed with finding out why a dead environmentalist with terrorist ties sent her a hummingbird, alienating herself (further) from her family and workplace. Just when it seems like she might be chasing nothing, very real threats appear that strain her security expertise and her weightlifter’s body.

This is set in the near future where maybe another round or two of current tech prototypes have started filtering into everyday life, and another pandemic is arriving in the States. Yes it is an “environmental message” book, but at this point that’s not a genre; it’s a fact of contemporary life. It’s a literary thriller that takes a little getting used to and probably wouldn’t be published as an author’s first book, but wow am I glad I gave it another chance!

On the tech thriller side, Hummingbird Salamander reminded me most strongly of Neal Stephenson’s cyberpunk thrillers that don’t lean on Asian aesthetics: Reamde and Cryptonomicon. On the noir mystery side, it reminded me of Raymond Chandler and Walter Mosley.

[ official Hummingbird Salamander page on the official Jeff VanderMeer web site ]


Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

Summon the Heroes
by John Williams and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Compact Disc 781.68 Bos)

As I write this review, we are about halfway through the Tokyo Summer Olympics of 2021 (postponed from 2020 by the global pandemic). Ever since 1996, one of my every-other-year traditions during both the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics is to listen to this album on auto-replay for two straight weeks as the sporting events take place.

Summon the Heroes is both the album title and the title of the first track — which in 1996 was a newly created work by composer/conductor John Williams (yes, he of the many Oscar-winning soundtracks), in honor of the Centennial Celebration of the Modern Olympic Games in Atlanta, GA in July of that year. Overall, the disc contains twelve tracks, three of which are Williams’ music. Track three opens with Leo Arnaud’s “Bugler’s Dream”, which leads immediately into “Olympic Fanfare and Theme”, written by Williams for the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. And track #1 is “The Olympic Spirit”, a piece composed by Williams for the NBC Sports Division, in celebration of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. All three of Williams’ pieces feature a wide range of musical stylings, from challenging brasses and pulse-pounding percussion, to pensive woodwinds and striving strings — there’s a little thing in there for all types of athletic experience, from individuals struggling to complete a marathon, and gymnasts flying through the air like birds, to driving beats symbolizing the charge of the speed swimmer or the compulsive excitement of men and women testing the boundaries of human strength and endurance.

Admittedly, those are the three tracks I gravitate towards most often, considering that they are still heavily sampled for use in NBC’s ongoing Olympics television and streaming coverage of the games. But the disc does include 9 other tracks of music, some written specifically for the Olympics, and some just thematically appropriate: “O Fortuna” by Carl Orff; “Ode to Zeus” from Canto Olympico (for the 1992 games in Barcelona” by Mikis Theodorakis; “Javelin” by Michael Torke, written for the 1996 Atlanta games; “Olympic Theme” by Leonard Bernstein, written for the 1981 International Olympic Congress; “Festive Overture, Op. 96” by Dmitri Shostakovich, theme of the 1980 Moscow summer games, “Conquest of Paradise” by Vangelis; “Parade of the Charioteers from Ben Hur” by Miklos Rozsa; “Toward a Nw Life” by Josef Suk, Silver medal-winning composition at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and “Chariots of Fire (Theme)”, also by Vangelis, written for the 1981 film but also performed at the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo. I find most of these non-Williams’ tracks to be more about the fanfare and pageantry of the Games, and less about the experiences of the athletes themselves.

None-the-less, each of these pieces, in their own way, is inspirational and celebrational. But the three Williams tracks, clocking in at around 14 1/2 minutes total, get my pulse racing and put me in the mood to see the world’s greatest athletes pushing their limits. Of the hundreds of CDs (and digital albums) I own, I’ve probably listened to Summon the Heroes more often than any other…and it never fails to lift me up, no matter what mood I’m in!

[Note: Williams also composed yet another piece of Olympics music — “Call of the Champions” — for the 2002 Winter Olympics, after this 1996 album was released. I wish it was also on this disc!] [If you enjoy this, I’d suggest listening to other John Williams works, but his soundtracks, tremendous though they are, are very much tied in to the films they were written for. The works he created for the Olympics seem to stand out as an entirely different field of music.] [ Wikipedia page for John Williams (he doesn’t have an official website) ]

See the new Summer Olympics Reading List on BookGuide!


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

The Magical Reality of Nadia
by Bassem Youssef (j Youssef)

Nadia Youssef loves bobble heads, fun facts, and her diverse Nerd Patrol group of friends. Nadia moved to the United States from Egypt when she was six, and has just returned from a vacation to Cairo. Now she is ready to tackle sixth grade and middle school.

Her first mission: to win a contest with her friends to design a new exhibit in their local museum. But middle school is not as easy as she anticipated. New classmates have prejudices. Old friendships are tested. She wonders if her family would have been happier staying in Egypt. But Nadia discovers she has acquired a secret magical “weapon” of sorts. During her trip to Egypt she purchased an ancient hippopotamus amulet. Inside is a “genie” called Titi. Instead of wishes, Titi (an Egyptian teacher in his earlier life) materializes on the pages of any book or paper close by to locate information from any date or time. All Nadia has to do is ask for help. But will Titi be enough to help her solve all her problems, or create new ones?

I found The Magical Reality of Nadia to be enjoyable for any student in third to fifth grade. It incorporates the occasional graphic comic to make the book a fun read. It also offers a timely viewpoint of how it feels to be bullied for having a different background, and offers a caring insight into how to bridge gaps of prejudice and stereotypes showing that we all have at least one thing we can share and that we aren’t so different after all.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan, the Planet Omar series by Zanib Mianor, or Dragons in a Bag by Zeta Elliott.] [ Wikipedia page for Bassem Youssef ]


Recommended by Cindy K.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

One by One
by Ruth Ware (Compact Disc Ware)

When the libraries’ Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group read and discussed One by One by Ruth Ware for our July meeting, it was my first time to sample a Ruth Ware novel, after numerous readers have recommended her to me over the past three to four years. In this case, I listened to One by One, narrated by Imogen Church, as a book-on-CD in my car on my way to-and-from work in 25 minute segments each day.

I’ll have to admit, I wasn’t pulled into the story quickly — I’d gotten over 2 full discs into the 11-disc audiobook, and was thinking the story was moving very slowly, with too much descriptive text, and then, suddenly, I discovered I was invested in the story and the characters, and bad things started to happen.

Just Desserts Mystery Discussion GroupIn the tradition of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, One by One features a group of disparate characters, trapped in a remote and inaccessible location, when emotions and hostilities erupt and the group members begin dying off…one by one. In this case, it’s a remote, rustic ski chalet high in the French Alps, the group of characters is formed of a bunch of co-workers at a trendy internet tech company on a corporate retreat, along with a former company employee, and the two workers (a chef and a housekeeper/manager) that are employees of the chalet. Emotions run ragged when a buyout option for the company comes up, but discussions are pushed back until after everyone can go skiing. Only…there’s a snowstorm coming, not everyone returns from the ski outing, and as they all hunker down at the chalet to try to figure out what happened to the missing group member, an avalanche hits, causing injuries and knocking out the power. And then people start dying, in unnatural ways.

The story is told from two different women’s points-of-view, and in the audiobook, narrator Church gives each of those distinctly different “voices” and temperaments. The tension and fear keep ratcheting up, with each consecutive chapter, and I found myself not wanting to stop listening to the book-on-cd, when I’d pull up to the curb at home after work.

Strong recommendation from me on this one…though you need to stick with it past the early doldrums. The audiobook was terrific. Most mystery/suspense works I tend to read are parts of series, but One by One is a stand-alone, without question. I’ll definitely be looking forward to reading/listening-to more Ruth Ware titles in the future!

[ official One by One page on the official Ruth Ware web site ]


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

Screening Room

formatdvdThe Last Blockbuster
directed by Taylor Morden (DVD 338.76 BloYl)

Talk about irony — I had multiple friends recommend The Last Blockbuster when it first showed up as a streaming or downloadable film several months ago. But, like a partial luddite, I don’t do streaming or downloadable content, so I had to wait until the DVD/BluRay combo got added to the libraries’ collection.

All of which is a preface to show that I am this documentary’s target audience — somebody who grew up in the era of both Mom & Pop video rentals outlets, as well as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. I actually looked forward to the experience of wandering the rows and racks of several different Blockbuster locations in Lincoln, checking out the new releases and exploring each locations different older film selections.

This documentary does a remarkable job of capturing what the consumption of rental entertainment was like in the 1980s to the early 2000s. I already knew many of the details of what ultimately led to Blockbuster’s demise as a chain, though I still learned quite a bit from this film. Most fascinating was to learn that it wasn’t Netflix that killed Blockbuster, but rather the use of Blockbuster by its owners to prop up other businesses, which were also failing.

All of the wonderful little interviews with people as they share their memories (both good and bad) about either being a customer or an employee of Blockbuster lead to a great deal of poignancy as we focus on the final Blockbuster store in existence…in Bend, Oregon, and its personable manager, Sandi Harding.

I appreciated that the filmmakers took a positive approach to their subject matter, when they could easily have filmed this documentary with snarky movie fans mocking the concept of video and DVD rentals in an era of digital downloads. But, instead, The Last Blockbuster was a pleasant trip into nostalgia. The discs in this set include several extras, including longer interview segments that were truncated in the film itself, and some additional “behind-the-scenes” footage that didn’t make it on screen.

The only reason I’m giving The Last Blockbuster a “9” instead of a “10” is that I wish the filmmakers had interviewed even more people than the core group that are included in the film. Otherwise, an absolutely terrific documentary, which I strongly recommend.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this documentary ] | [ official The Last Blockbuster Facebook page ]


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

(DVD Seabiscuit)

I have always been a fan of movies about horses, so it is no wonder that I would find this movie so appealing. This movie is based on the true story of Seabiscuit, an American racehorse who became a symbol of hope to many Americans during the Great Depression. Although small, Seabiscuit beat the odds to become one of the greatest racehorses in America during the late 1930s and early 1940s. The story is about Seabiscuit’s jockey, trainer and owner. The jockey is played by Tobey Maguire of Spiderman fame who gives an incredible performance as Red Pollard. Also notable in this production is Jeff Bridges as owner Charles Howard and author David McCullough as the narrator.

This is well worth seeing.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try War Horse, Secretariat or Black Beauty] [Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]


Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

last updated August 2021
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