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Staff Recommendations – February 2022

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

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February 2022 Recommendations

We Hereby Refuse: Japanese-American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration
written by Frank Abe and Timika Nimura, with art by Ross Ishikawa and Matt Sasaki (YA PB (Graphic Novel) Abe)

This serious and thought-provoking graphic novel explores the experiences of three young Japanese-Americans during the World War II years, following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war against the Empire of Japan. Hajime Jim Akutsu is a 22-year-old young man in a family that runs a shoe repair shop in Seattle, and is studying engineering in college. Hiroshi Kashiwagi is a 19-year-old young man living with his family on a farm just outside Sacramento, waiting to enroll in college. And Mitsuye Endo is a 21-year-old typist for a California state agency. She lives in Sacramento as well. Hastily made government decisions lead to these three (and their families) being sent to various Internment camps in the interior of the U.S. There, over time, they and hundreds of thousands of other Japanese-Americans face loyalty tests, restrictions of their freedoms, and the hatred and distrust of many Caucasian-Americans.

We Hereby Refuse does a tremendous job of showing the inhumane and un-American treatment afforded to both natural-born U.S. citizens and Japanese immigrants who had assimilated into American life and considered the United States to be their new country. The parallels to treatment of other ethnic groups in more recent years is painfully obvious. We Hereby Refuse is a cautionary tale that anyone unaware of our checkered past should read, to open their eyes to a dark chapter in American history.

There are two artists’ work represented in this volume — alternating different parts of the story. Their styles are considerably different, and I’ll have to admit that I found the edgy look of one of them a bit off-putting. Other readers may not have an issue with that. The inclusion of dozens of historical figures from the WWII era really brought the story to life.

Highly recommended, especially in an era when graphic novels like Maus, which explore uncomfortable historical truths, can face banning from school curriculums!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Allegiance — the soundtrack to a Broadway show based on the experiences of actor George Takei and his family, who also were placed in internment camps during WWII, They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Steven Scott, Harmony Becky and Justin Eisinger, or Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds Histor by Art Spiegelman.)

( Frank Abe’s official resisters.com web site )

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


Teaflet and Roog Make a Mess
by Jeanne Birdsall (j Birdsall)

Award-winning author Jeanne Birdsall teamed up with friend and neighbor Jane Dyer to create a magical world called Trelfdom where very small creatures live in harmony with nature. Teaflet and her brother Roog are working hard to prepare for the 10th annual Strawberry Jam Party while also preparing the house for a visit from the new inspector of neatness. Animals in need of help or healing from Teaflet keep getting underfoot as Roog attempts to get all his baking done in time for the party. Will their house ever be tidy again? This delightful story is a visual feast for anyone interested in miniatures or felt crafting. The animals and characters are all made by hand from wool that is needle-felted by illustrator Jane Dyer, who also raises the sheep for the wool she uses in this book. I especially enjoyed the character of the Neatness Inspector, “the dreaded Inspector Maple, with the even more dreaded neatness list on her clipboard.” I highly recommend this book for all ages.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, or any books by Jill Barklem, including Spring Story, The Secret Staircase, Summer Story, Autumn Story, Winter Story or The High Hills, etc.)

( official Teaflet and Roog page on the official Jeanne Birdsall web site )

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


The Dark Hours
by Michael Connelly, narrated by Christine Lakin and Titus Welliver (Compact Disc Connelly)

This is the fourth entry in Connelly’s Renee Ballard series, but it is also the 23rd entry in his Harry Bosch series. Unlike the previous volume, The Night Fire (2019), in which Renee and Harry took turns narrating the story, in The Dark Hours, Renee is the only point-of-view character. However, since this is an audiobook, in addition to Christine Lakin as the primary narrator, they did bring back Titus Welliver (the actor portraying Bosch in the recently-concluded Amazon Prime streaming series Bosch) to provide the voice of Harry Bosch any time his character speaks.

The Dark Hours follows Renee’s work on two simultaneous cases — first, she is reluctantly partnered up with a fellow female detective on the “Midnight Men” case — a pair of men working together to commit serial rape crimes against specifically targeted single women. And then, when a hispanic man, a former gang member who got out of that life, is killed by a gunshot during the chaos of midnight gunfire citywide as Angelinos go into the streets to fire their guns in the air at the toll of midnight on December 31st, 2020, Renee intuits that the death was not accidental but instead an intentional murder. Ballistics matches the gun used in the New Years Eve killing to an old, unsolved case from Bosch’s era — the retired detective and the young late shift detective combine notes and efforts to research that case. Meanwhile, Renee also follows a few promising leads on identifying a pattern to the tag-team rapists to try to predict their next move and prevent another woman from being victimized — while dealing with a burned-out colleague and lack of support from her supervisors.

Connelly is superb at creating realistic police procedurals, with compelling characters and tense plots. Renee Ballard has been a fascinating character to see evolve in her first four books, and her “unofficial” partnership with the older, retired Bosch as a mentor figure has been an interesting way for Connelly to keep his most-renowned character still active in recent years. I definitely appreciated the fact that in this book, we get to see how the L.A.P.D. is coping during the pandemic years — the bulk of the events take place in the first two weeks of January 2021, as even first responders in Los Angeles are mostly still awaiting COVID-19 vaccinations. With most contemporary series writers casting a blind eye towards the pandemic, it has been refreshing to see Connelly integrate the true reality of our world into his storytelling.

The Dark Hours is another superb Connelly title — he rarely disappoints!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the first three Renee Ballard novels by Connelly, particularly in audiobook format, all read by Christine Lakin and Titus Welliver.)

( official The Dark Hours page on the official Michael Connelly web site )

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

The Pocket Shantyman: 130 Songs of the Sea
by Gary Coover (Music 781.62 Coo)

Sea Shanties have been all the rage during the COVID pandemic. Maybe they remind us of freer times, when we could all gather together for singalongs, or maybe they remind us of those simpler days when people were still exploring for the limits of the seas. It could simply be how catchy they are, and how compact the song structures can be, perfect for TikTok videos.

Whatever the case, if you’re in need of a sea shanty or two for your next singalong or ukulele practice, the Polley Music Library has you covered with The Pocket Shantyman: 130 Songs of the Sea. Unlike most previous collection of sea shanties, this book gets right to the music, with no historical introductions to the songs. What you get is exactly what the title suggests: 130 incredibly catchy melodies that are mostly great practice for singing in natural minor keys, and lyrics that extend these tunes out anywhere between 2 and 14 verses. There was a lot of time on the high seas to discover extra verses, you see. You can sing them, you can play them on any instrument you’d like, but most importantly, you can let the music transport you to faraway places and times, just like a good book.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Sailor Song: The Shanties and Ballads of the High Seas by Gerry Smyth or The Oxford Book of Sea Songs by Roy Palmer.)

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Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library


Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic
by John French (Music 781.66 Vanvliet)

Captain Beefheart, real name Don Van Vliet, was one of the most fascinating figures to emerge from the rock and roll scene of the 1960s. The good Captain started with some relatively conventional music rooted in the blues, but quickly found his way to composing some of the most unorthodox music of the 60s. In particular, he is remembered for his 1969 album “Trout Mask Replica,” a downright inscrutable record that almost sounds like sloppy improvisation on the first listen, but in fact is totally composed and carefully rehearsed. It wasn’t a popular record upon release, but has come to be included on almost every “greatest album of the 60s” kind of list by major music publications in subsequent decades.

Beefheart was a unique person, to put it diplomatically, and legends abound around his personality, the way he ran his bands, and even the basic facts of his biography. Beefheart himself often added to the confusion and mystery around these subjects in interviews, making it difficult to figure out what really happened around the creation of some of his most iconic work. But drummer John French, who worked with Beefheart on his debut LP and 7 more of his most notable records, wrote an extensive biography of Beefheart that was published in 2010. In 2021, Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic was revised and published again, and you can now borrow it from the Polley Music Library.

The book has been returned to print by a British record label, The Last Music company, and I don’t think this book has gone through the kind of rigorous editing process that a conventional publisher would demand. The fonts are tiny and run dangerously close to the margins. The sheer size of the book is daunting: it could and probably should have been tightened up by an assertive editor. And there is no index.

Editing and formatting issues aside, the information here is simply unbeatable. Not only is French himself the perfect person to frame a discussion of Beefheart’s working processes, as he held tenure as the “musical director” responsible for transcribing and arranging his bandleader’s cryptic piano tapes and whistling for the full band, but he did his due diligence for this book, interviewing tons of former Magic Band musicians and associates of Beefheart. The result is as clear a picture of Beefheart and the scene immediately surrounding him as we’re ever going to get. And this makes for some fascinating reading: many of the Beefheart myths are soundly struck down, others are substantiated, and there are, for better or worse, many situations where the real story is even more bizarre than the myths could contain.

And in many cases, if you’re inclined to like Beefheart, “for better or worse” lands on the side of worse. At a personal level, it’s hard to make it through this book and still think of him as a likeable fellow. But on a musical level, you start to see the many complexities involved with the Magic Bands over the years, and how much the many talented musicians who worked with Beefheart contributed to the music. It’s an interesting position to be in after reading through a rock and roll bio: My respect and admiration for the music remains intact — indeed, in some cases, it has grown — while my admiration for the person whose name graces the album covers is diminished. To quickly summarize his behavior without giving away too many spoilers in the book, I think it’s fair to say that at the height of his creative powers, Beefheart became an increasingly cruel and abusive person to his band members and those closest to him. At times, his behavior starts to parallel that of a cult leader or a dictator, his interactions alternately like a “tough-love” paternal figure or simply adversarial.

But there are other narratives that you can latch onto as you navigate through this book. Although Chapter 1 starts with a fairly harrowing story of Beefheart’s abuse during the “Trout Mask” period, French then turns it into a brief introduction, where he divides the Magic Band into three broad eras. His interviews will go on to focus on the earliest two eras, though some members of the final lineups are interviewed as well. French also returned to the band for Beefheart’s penultimate album, “Doc at the Radar Station.” After a couple of pages of this introductory material, the book switches to a mostly chronological tale. And it’s from this chronology that you can follow the observations and careers of other Magic Band members. In general, most of the Magic Band members over time ran considerably younger than Beefheart — for many of them, the Magic Band served as their first experience as professional musicians around the age of 17 or 18, while Beefheart himself was around 26 when his debut full length “Safe As Milk” was released. In the middle era of the band, French generally observes that this age difference naturally gave Beefheart a bit of an advantage over his younger bandmates, whose expectations about being in a band were generally naïve, and as the music became more idiosyncratic, they were pulled along even though they mostly joined thinking of it as a rhythm and blues project. In contrast, the later iterations of the band were filled by musicians who were already fans of Beefheart’s late 60s and early 70s music, and had more of an understanding of what they were getting into.

What were they getting into? If we go back to the mid-period Magic Band, which French delineates around the “Trout Mask” and “Decals” albums, we get to the biggest mythical period of the Beefheart story, which largely surrounds the production of the “Trout Mask Replica” album. It turns out that many of the stories told over the years were true: the Captain more or less held his band hostage in a rented house where they lived for 8 months. After being used to playing shows and making some money, they were suddenly thrown into a surreal situation where Beefheart conveyed his musical ideas primarily through French, who had to transcribe and arrange them to somehow work with typical rock band orchestration, and the band were expected to practice for 14 hours a day. The financial situation at the house became dire, with Beefheart feeding the band a cup of soybeans each day per member for about a month. Several members had to resort to stealing food from the nearest grocery store, were caught, and had to be bailed out by Beefheart’s childhood friend and record producer Frank Zappa. And Beefheart played mind games with the band in an attempt to maintain their focus on him and prevent a mutiny. It sounds like a harrowing experience, and French retells it through a combination of his own recollections and conversations with a few members of the band at the time.

French left and returned to the band several times, and information on the periods where he wasn’t in the band is naturally less detailed. The bulk of the book focuses on the early days of the band through “Trout Mask.” There is a shorter section devoted to French’s return for the “Decals” record and subsequent touring, and a very interesting account of the “Bat Chain Puller” era, intriguing because the album was ultimately shelved due to a disagreement between producer Zappa and his manager Herb Cohen. And French returned again at the dawn of the 1980s to work on “Doc at the Radar Station,” which gets some discussion. The activity around other albums is mentioned through interview snippets with band members, with the exception of the mid-70s period around the “Unconditionally Guaranteed” and “Bluejeans and Moonbeams” albums, a period most fans and critics agree was a failed attempt to make Beefheart into a more commercial radio-friendly enterprise.

Although the book is mostly focused on Beefheart and his bands, there are sections that are more autobiographical about French. These show up with more frequency toward the end of the book, as he starts to become more confident in his own adult identity separate from being part of the Magic Band, and as he finds himself drawn to organized religion. I found these sections interesting both as personal anecdotes and as a kind of longer-term response to the abuse he and other band members suffered under Beefheart in the previous decades. This really is a complex story of personalities in the end, where those who were the target of Beefheart’s bad behavior mostly came to forgive him over the years. But it’s difficult reading at times, too, especially in light of the way Beefheart was represented in the music press during his career. For a figure often discussed mostly as a childlike genius/savant type, one certainly has to reevaluate the Beefheart legacy after this book.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Captain Beefheart: The Biography by Mike Barnes, Songs in the Key of Z : The Curious Universe of Outsider Music by Irwin Chusid or Frank: The True Story That Inspired the Movie by Jon Ronson.)

( Wikipedia page for Captain Beefheart | ( Wikipedia page for musician/author John French )

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Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library


Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons From Marine Mammals
by Alexis Pauline Gumbs (YA 305.42 Gum)

A friend had recommended this book to me because of its focus on mindfulness and the ways in which it connects us to our ocean relatives. Author Alexis Pauline Gumbs wrote these love letters to very specific marine mammals, grouped in chapters labeled with imperatives: breathe, collaborate, surrender, slow down…

While learning about marine mammals, many I had never heard of, I was also reminded of some of human’s best qualities as well. I would recommend this to BIPOC readers, folks interested in the similarities and differences between the human and non-human worlds, and anyone wanting to expand their mindfulness practices. The chapters are short but it will take quite a while to absorb the lessons.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, The Inner Life of Animals by Peter Wohlleben, How to Be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey, Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown or Our Animal Neighbors: Compassion for Every Furry, Slimy, Prickly Creature on Earth by Richard Matthieu.)

( pubisher’s official Undrowned web page ) | ( official Alexis Pauline Gumbs web site )

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Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley Branch Library


The Science of Middle-Earth: A New Understanding of Tolkien and His World
edited by Roland Lehoucq, Loic Mangin, and Arnauld Rafaelian (823 Tol)

At first glance, this book might appear to be an examination of how scientifically accurate the fictional works of J.R.R. Tolkien are. The book is actually a collection of essays by different writers of varying backgrounds, looking at Tolkien’s works from a variety of perspectives that can be broadly considered “scientific”. The introductory essay looks at Tolkien’s broadly scientific mindset — that is, showing that he was a keen observer of nature, albeit not specifically trained as a scientist. From there, the essays proceed with the “soft” sciences (sociology, political science, and — of course — linguistics) and then move on to the “harder” sciences of geology, chemistry, biology, and so on.

With such a mix of writers covering such a range of topics, this book is probably better suited to “dipping into” rather than reading straight through. The essays will vary greatly in their interest level to readers, and while worth reading, this collection can hardly be considered essential reading for Tolkien aficionados.

One final note: the collection would have benefited from more thorough editing, both to clear up errors in content (such as erroneous references to specific chapters in Tolkien’s works) and to catch an unusual number of typographical errors.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Atlas of Middle-Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad.)

( publisher’s official The Science of Middle-Earth web page ) | ( official J.R.R. Tolkien Bookshop web site )

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Recommended by Peter J.
Virtual Services Department


Cuando Amamos Cantamos: When We Love Someone We Sing to Them
by Ernesto Javier Martinez (j466.3 Mar)

I pulled out this bilingual book to recommend for the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday. I am a big fan of Maya Christina Gonzalez’ books, and this one makes for a beautiful collaboration between Gonzalez as illustrator alongside author Ernesto Javier Martinez. A father teaches his son about how serenades are sung to those we love. The young boy realizes he has loving feeling towards his new friend (who is another young boy). It’s a lovely story of family acceptance. Author and professor Ernesto Javier Martinez also made a short film of this same story.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Sing, Don’t Cry by Angela Dominguez, What You Don’t Know by Anastasia Higginbotham, Call Me Tree by Maya Christina Gonzalez, Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez Neal or Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love.)

( official When We Love Someone We Sing to Them page on the official Ernesto Javier Martinez web site )

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Recommended by Naomi S.
Eisely Branch Library


The Lyrics: 1956 to Present
by Paul McCartney (Music 781.66 McC)

This two-volume set is a must-read for any fan of the Beatles or of Paul McCartney’s music. Filled to the brim with stunning photographs, music history and nostalgia, Paul goes through a selection of his songs in alphabetical order and describes what was going on in his life and the world at the time when he wrote the lyrics to these songs. What I enjoyed the most about this work is the personal look into the private life of a family man who was happiest when working on his farm in Scotland, raising his family. Paul describes in detail his emotions at the time when the Beatles first became a group as well as when they broke up as a band. While reading this set, I felt like I was sitting there with the author as he talked about very personal things going on in his life, such as how the death of his mother affected him at the tender age of fourteen and how that event spilled over into his songwriting career. Having grown up in the 60s and 70s, it was interesting to see events from Paul’s point of view compared with what was being published by the media. I was especially touched by descriptions of Paul’s relationship with John Lennon, which had always been described as non-existent following the breakup of the Beatles, but which was actually very caring, especially in the period of time just before John’s untimely death. I think the one thing I came away with from this book was Paul’s incredible love for his wife, Linda, and how much she impacted his life. As a fan of Wings, I was pleased to see photos of the group and the inclusion of his lyrics for songs recorded by that group as well. All in all, this is an excellent publication and worthy of reading.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the DVD Hard Day’s Night by The Beatles, Blackbird Singing: Poems and Lyrics from 1965-1999 by Paul McCartney or Conversations With McCartney by Paul Du Noyer.)

( U.S. Publisher’s official The Lyrics web page ) | ( official Book Trailer for “The Lyrics” ) | ( official Paul McCartney web site )

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


The Last Graduate
by Naomi Novik (Novik)

This is the second book in the Scholomance Series, stories about a school for wizards, but much darker than the Harry Potter series. In this school, there are creatures within the school trying to kill the students. As the students make alliances with other students to prepare for graduation, the young wizards learn spells that give them a chance to survive — all without teachers or online instruction. Another way of looking at the stories is to think of taking all the student wizards, locking them into a giant prison and tell them that only the fittest (or luckiest) have a chance to survive. I enjoyed the book but felt that the author was making the story too complicated by adding too much jargon — words that mean something in this world she has created, not unlike Tolkien with Lord of the Rings but not done as well either. The latter part of the book was better than the earlier section because there is more action as the students rush to complete their tasks before graduation. Be prepared for a cliffhanger ending — hopefully another book is in the works!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Uprooted and Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, or The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.)

( official Scholomance page on the official Naomi Novik web site )

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


After the Rain
by Nnedi Okorafor (YA Okorafor)

Many of Nnedi Okorafor’s books are already short enough for my short attention span, even when they involve a little bit of world-building. This graphic adaptation of her short story “On the Road” finds a Nigerian-American woman visiting her home country, and what happens when a young man visits her doorstep with a dire warning. This graphic novel is definitely graphic in its violence, but it is mostly supernatural forces at work rather than humans hurting each other. There is a long span of horror, some blood and guts in the middle of the book, but the resolution of the harm is slightly less scary.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti series, The Sacrifice of Darkness by Roxane Gay, The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado, and The Parable of the Sower or Kindred, both by Octavia Butler, illustrated by John Jennings.)

( publisher’s official After the Rain web page ) | ( official Nnedi Okorafor web site )

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Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley Branch Library


The Man Who Died Twice
by Richard Osman (Osman)

How do you start a good book? Begin with a letter from a man who should be dead — one who you invented and then killed off years ago. Jokes on you, it’s your ex-husband and he allegedly stole 20 million pounds worth of diamonds from the wrong people. Later, he is murdered for real. Is his death a joke on you as well?

The Man Who Died Twice is the second cozy mystery installment in the Thursday Murder Club series by Richard Osman. Once again the four more-than-meets-the-eye retirees in quiet Coopers Chase England are doing what they do best to solve the murder and find the diamonds to boot. Each character brings a toolbox of skills: Elizabeth the ex-police officer and spy, Ibrahim the psychiatrist, Ron the political mover and shaker, and Joyce the retired nurse.

I enjoy how Osmond portrays his characters, and I find the dialogue to be full of personality and wit. I can envision these characters in a quirky Netflix or Hulu series. The book moves quickly along with a number of twists, similar to the first book in the series. And if you haven’t first read the first book in the series, I would strongly recommend it before you read The Man Who Died Twice. You will miss many references and a lot of backstory that makes this book more enjoyable. All in all, the whole series is comical and clever. Well worth the read..

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, or The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave.)

( publisher’s official The Man Who Died Twice web page ) | ( official Richard Osman Twitter feed )

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

Nonbinary: A Memoir
by Genesis P-Orridge (Music 781.66 P-Orridge)

Genesis P-Orridge was a multi-disciplinary artist who is probably best known for being one of the founders of the industrial music genre in the 1970s. Gen was also one of the earliest people to work in live art installation works that have come to be known as “performance art,” and continued to work in other artistic media throughout their life. Writing this book turned out to be one of their last creative acts, as they died of leukemia in 2020 while still working on the text. The book was ultimately published in June of 2021. While there have been numerous interviews over the decades with Gen, and bits of their life story have been a part of lots of documentaries on industrial music and culture, Nonbinary is the first in-depth look at their life, particularly the early years.

In fact, the emphasis of this book on developmental years was one of my biggest takeaways. There are lots of other places to find out more about the history of early industrial music, and P-Orridge’s contributions to it in the bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, but well over the first half of this book covers the time period before 1975, the beginning of Throbbing Gristle. More recent times, from the 1990s to the present, figure in only the last 50 or so pages. Of course, this emphasis on early times is likely not intentional, since Gen died before the book was formally complete. But in some ways, I think it makes the book both more interesting and more essential for understanding their unique and creative life story.

I also think that the short afterword to the book by author and thinker Douglas Rushkoff really helps to frame the overall text — you might want to read it first, and then get into the book proper. Rushkoff briefly summarizes how the book project came into being — it was essentially done when Gen’s health became too compromised to continue traveling for performances — and he observes a particular quality about the whole book that I think comes through loud and clear. Let me quote him, because I think it’s a great lens through which to read the whole text. I wish I had read it before I read the whole book:

“What helped me get Gen to turn the corner was when I suggested they not write their autobiography, but rather their experiences with others. Gen’s eyes lit up at the thought of sharing their adventures transitioning from man to medium, as they themselves transitioned from life to — well, whatever is next. Predictably, then, this volume may seem just a bit mosaic to some readers. Well, what would you expect from a cut-and-paste artist who was no more dedicated to crashing civilization than crashing their own identity? The reading experience you just had was to my mind a bit like experiencing Genesis the person. Fluid. Changing. Self-annihilating. Nonbinary in the sense that the subject and object, figure and ground, merge and intertwine.”

Gen’s official start to the book is a prologue that retells their first meeting with novelist William Burroughs in London in 1972. The event clearly stood out to Gen as a kind of confirmation along the creative path, and the beginning of an encouraging relationship that continued through to the end of Burroughs’ life in 1997.

Then we’re taken back to the very earliest years of Gen’s life, and some biographical background on their parents. Among some general parental backgrounds, they recount in great detail the story of Gen’s father narrowly surviving the Battle of Dunkirk in WWII, and report an otherwise fairly normal childhood. The resided in Manchester, England, with maternal grandparents living next door during Gen’s single-digit years, and moved around a couple of times during grammar school years. They sang in grammar school choir. At the age of 15, they discovered the beat writers, which led to British counterculture magazines of the time, and then the underground music of the 60s, and soon Gen’s focus had settled on the arts. This, combined with a near-death experience, eventually led to the kinds of art and music that P-Orridge is famous for.

I don’t want to give away all of the historical details in Nonbinary right here, but suffice it to say that if you’re a fan, I think you’ll learn a lot about Gen’s life that you might not have read about previously. What I do want to emphasize is how Gen’s musings about their past lead to a couple of spots in the book that nicely summarize their contributions to the arts. One, which is fairly obvious but important nonetheless, is founding the industrial music genre. Genesis recalls, “On September 3, 1975, I went for a walk in London Fields in Hackney, London E8, with Monte Cazazza. We were talking and trying to come up with a name not for the band but for the music Throbbing Gristle was making, and we kept using the word ‘industrial.’ Industrial music.” They go on to explain their thoughts about the context, and are pleased to reflect that industrial music remains a living, growing genre of music 45 years later.

The second major takeaway, in my estimation, relates to Gen’s approach to music having little to do with musical skills in the conventional sense. While they have mentioned in many previous interviews the notion that Throbbing Gristle was intentionally a band of non-musicians figuring out how to approach music in new ways, there is a fairly concise explanation of the band’s early working methods in the book. Briefly put, they would jam while recording, Gen would go through these tapes and copy promising parts onto another tape, and then the band would learn how to recreate those more compelling passages and organize them into pieces.

Although they weren’t approaching music from the conventional paradigm of learning technique and music theory, they were learning how to create, refine, and reproduce particular kinds of orchestrated content that suited their needs. Aspects of this approach have become common musical practices since the early industrial era. They worked with lots of tape recorded extra audio in the form of “field recordings” of found sound, an obvious precursor to sampling culture. They reassembled bits of interesting music into new compositional wholes, a process very similar to contemporary production practices, and built into certain kinds of software packages like Ableton as the primary way to approach raw materials. And we also see lots of people producing music who aren’t coming from conventional musical backgrounds. Some come from other artistic disciplines, often from the visual arts. All of these pioneering practices, from the musical to the technical, are well represented in the book.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music by Alexander Reed, or Spectrum Compendium: Archival Documentation of the Post-Industrial Underground, Spectrum Magazine Archive 1998-2002 by Richard Stevenson.)

( publisher’s official Nonbinary: A Memoir web page ) | ( Wikipedia page for Genesis B. P-Orridge )

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Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library


Your Mama
by NoNieqa Ramos (jP Ramos)

This book takes the format of “Your Mama…” insults that many children say to each other on the playground and beautifully spins them towards the incredible aspects of motherhood. This book would be wonderful for families to read together to reflect on the invisible labors that mothers take on for the good of the family. Children of single mothers and single mothers themselves will likely feel very seen in this book. My only warning about this book: fathers, non-binary parents, and other caretakers might also want similar books about themselves. This book has so many loving and powerful statements in it, it’s hard to not be joyful after reading it. I can’t wait to see an older child pick this up and read it to their mom as an expression of gratitude.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try In My Anaana’s Amautik by Nadia Sammurtok, Dad By My Side by Soosh, Yo Soy Muslim by Mark Gonzalez, Saturday by Oge Mora, Birdie’s Beauty Parlor by Lee Merrill Byrd, In Your Hands by Carole Boston Weatherford, Me & Mama by Cozbi Cabrera, and Just Like a Mama or Honey Baby Sugar Child, both by Alice Faye Duncan.)

( official Your Mama page on the official NoNieqa Ramos web site )

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Recommended by Naomi S.
Eiseley Branch Library


Harry Potter: A Magical Year
by J.K. Rowling (j Rowling)

This is the latest book to feature the marvelous illustrations of British artist Jim Kay in the Harry Potter world of publications. Arranged in diary format, each day of the year is accompanied by a quote from one of the Harry Potter books, perhaps occurring on that day or close to it. Birthdays of main characters are marked as well as anniversaries of important dates, such as the Tri-Wizard Tournament. What makes this book so remarkable though are the hundreds of illustrations by Jim Kay; most of the illustrations have already been featured in the large illustrated versions of the first four Harry Potter books, but some of the illustrations are new. I highly recommend this book for any fan of Harry Potter or the art of this amazing illustrator.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling, as illustrated by Jim Kay, or A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.)

( official Jim Kay’s Harry Potter page ) | ( official J.K. Rowling web site )

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


The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
by Hannah Tinti (Tinti)

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is a mystery, of sorts. It’s not a traditional whodunit. Samuel Hawley is a mystery himself. He is riddled with bullet scars. He’s always on the run with his daughter Loo. He is obsessed with having a gun at all times. Sure, he seems to have lived a rough life on the wrong side of the law. And the scars are a clue. However, as the story unfolds we are left with an even bigger question: why did Loo’s mother die?

The story is told alternating between Loo and Samuel. Each of Samuel’s chapters detail how he earned his 12 bullet wounds and how it changed him. Loo’s chapters give us a picture of a young girl growing up without roots, the difficulties of never fitting in, and how she becomes a young woman.

The book is filled with suspense and lots of close calls for both Samuel and Loo. While Samuel might try to keep his dangerous past from his daughter, his dangerous past will surely come back to haunt them both. But fortunately good fathers don’t always have to be law-abiding men.

I found Tinti to be a skilled author; the book kept my attention and it was difficult to put down. I enjoyed the chapters from Samuel from “Bullet Number One” all the way to “Bullet Number Twelve.” I knew each chapter was going to have a dramatic story with a close call in which Samuel escapes with his life. If I had one complaint it would be that I wished the ending was less ambiguous..

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz, The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave or The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti.)

( official The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley page on the official Hannah Tinti web site )

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

Mirror Sound: A Look Ito the People and Processes Behind Self-Recorded Music
by Spencer Tweedy and Lawrence Azerrad (Music 781.49 Twe)

Mirror Sound is an combination of interviews with self-recording musicians and large, intimate photographs of their working spaces. It’s not a HOW-to for self-recording. It’s more of a WHY-to. There are just shy of 30 artists featured here who all came to self-recording in different ways. Some started with their instruments or voice but didn’t want the pressure of recording in someone else’s studio. A number of them talk about experiences of marginalization that prompted them to find a way around barriers. Some were fascinated by recording gear, whether that means the immediate revisability in software or the joy of hands-on play with equipment.

This book is an invitation to self-record in your own way. The photos are not mere illustrations to break up the text, but an equal focus. You can read it straight through like I did. Or, you could dip into artist features toward the front 2/3rds or the text-heavy extended interviews with the artist in the final 1/3rd of the book. This is the kind of book that’s meant to be a source of inspiration here and there over time, not because it’s a general story of self-recording but because it offers so many versions of specific.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Understanding Records: A Field Guide to Recording Practice by Jay Hodgson.)

( official Mirror Sound web site ) | ( official Spencer Tweedy web site ) | ( official Lawrence Azerrad design web site )

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


I’ve Seen the End of You
by W. Lee Warren M.D. (Biography Warren)

At turns horrific and hopeful, this second autobiographically-based book by neurosurgeon Lee Warren is a chronicle of patient journeys through glioblastoma multiforme brain tumors — which are fatal with rare exceptions — and of his own faith, family crises, private devastation, and renewed Christian spirituality. Warren was a combat surgeon in Iraq and now practices privately. He has diagnosed and treated many patients who suffer from the brutal glioblastoma cancers and he has had many moments of doubt and frustration, especially when having to give the grim prognosis. This recounts how he is able to deal with such challenges and still maintain a positive approach to his work and his life. Several of his patients are highlighted and, despite the prevalence of dire outcomes, there are sparks of positivity and happiness. Also covered are a variety of Warren’s personal lows and highs. Told in frank but inspirational tones, this is a gripping look at the melding of science and faith.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try No Place to Hide by W. Lee Warren, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee or Know Doubt by John Ortberg.)

( publisher’s official I’ve Seen the End of You web page ) | ( official W. Lee Warren M.D. web site )

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Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

A Light Amongst Shadows
by Kelley York and Rowan Altwood, narrated by Kale Williams (Hoopla Audio)

A Light Amongst Shadows is the first book in the Dark is the Night series, and takes place in 1860’s England at an isolated boarding school. I enjoyed this book so well I purchased all the titles (five so far) in the series.

James Spencer has been sent away by his family to Whisperwood School for Boys. This school is for boys unable to afford the high-end schools or who aren’t desired at home by their families. But James manages to find friends among his fellow students and settles in nicely — while he attempts to get used to the paranormal goings-on in the place such as the crying, screaming, and claws scratching at the door to his room at night.

The staff pretend none of this is going on, claiming any sounds heard are the result of the wind on an old building. But apparently these noises have been routine for decades. Then, one of the boys disappears. The head of the school claims the boy’s family took him home, but James and his friends know otherwise, especially when they learn boys have regularly turned up missing from this school.

A well-written story that gives you a feel for its time period, slowly unfolds the romance between the two major characters, and the chilling mystery of the ghostly activities. The narrator does an excellent job of quietly relating this gothic story. I liked this reader so well I also purchased the CD version of this book.

Don’t listen to this at night if you’re home alone.

( official Dark is the Night series page on the official Kelley York web site )

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

 

Screening Room

formatdvdThe Comedy Store
written and directed by Mike Binder (DVD 792.76 Com)

This five-episode documentary originally aired on the Showtime network in 2020, and came out later on DVD in 2021. The Comedy Store is a legendary club in Los Angeles, which opened its doors in 1972, and was expanded/renovated in 1976. The original facility has three different performing spaces — a main room and two smaller spaces, and all the rooms played host to many of the stand-up comedy legends of the past 50+ years.

Each hour-long episode of this documentary takes a look at a different era in The Comedy Store’s history. Shortly after it launched, Mitzi Shore received The Comedy Store from her husband in a divorce settlement, and she then spent the next several decades mentoring hundreds of comics and providing for an atmosphere that fostered the development of stand-up comedy.

Writer/director Mike Binder managed to conduct dozens of interviews with past and present comics, as well as unearthing tons of rare footage from past performances. What results is a fast-paced melange that is part “historical documentary” and part “personal remembrance”.

Because The Comedy Store was produced for a pay-cable network, the language is…colorful, and unfiltered…to say the least. But if you’ve only ever heard about The Comedy Store, and never had the opportunity to visit it, this will be an educational experience. Whether you’re a fan of old-school comics like Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Richard Pryor, Jay Leno, Andrew Dice Clay and David Letterman, or you lean more towards today’s comics, like Whitney Cummings, Joe Rogan, Andrew Santino, Ilza Shlesinger and Marc Maron, you’ll find something of interest in this look back at stand-up comedy history. I was particularly moved by the fact that this documentary not only pays tribute to so many comedians that have left us (Williams, Pryor, Sam Kinison, etc.), but also features recent interview segments with artists like Bob Saget and Louie Anderson, who’ve passed away just in the past few weeks.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Showtime TV series, I’m Dying Up Here, which preceded this documentary, and addresses (in a fictionalized setting) the 1970s comedy club scene. This has NOT been released to DVD at this time.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official The Comedy Store documentary page on the Showtime web site )

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


formatdvdHere Today
starring, directed by, and co-written by Billy Crystal (DVD Here)

I don’t remember seeing any commercials or previews for this one, before my wife snagged a copy from the new DVDs at the library. I’m glad she did, as this was a powerful and entertaining film about relationships, coping with dementia, and unlikely friendships.

Billy Crystal (who not only co-wrote this — with Alan Zweibel — and directed this) stars as Charlie Burnz, a legendary old Jewish TV comedy writer, whose fame extends back to the era of things like the Carol Burnett Show and other classic sitcoms and variety shows. He’s still on the writing staff for a weekly late night live comedy show (patterned after Saturday Night Live), but some of the younger writers there wonder if he still has any relevance, with his older comedy values.

Tiffany Haddish plays Emma Payge, a talented street musician coming out of a break-up with an ex-boyfriend. Her boyfriend had bid on, and won, a lunch with Charlie in a charity auction, and to spite the “ex”, Emma shows up for the lunch date. When the lunch date results in a trip to the emergency room for Emma, Charlie is dragged along, and the beginning of a bizarre yet refreshing friendship has started.

The performances of everyone in this entire cast are absolutely superb, especially the leads. Crystal plays Charlie, who is starting to slip into dementia, not as a pitiable character, but someone to be admired, as he recognizes the signs of his failing mental processes and does everything in his power to retain a semblance of his known life. And Emma’s rough-and-tumble streetwise characterization makes this odd-couple match-up very rewarding. But literally everyone else in the cast, from major supporting players to brief appearances, all feel “real”, and the film treats them as actual people and not fodder for cheap jokes.

Here Today is a sweet, sentimental and emotionally-charged movie, with moments of extreme hilarity and other moments of thoughtfulness. Ultimately it is one of my favorite comedies of the past few years. Highly recommended. And for those who’ve lived through the reality family members afflicted with Alzheimers, Parkinsons and other dementia-related conditions, this subject matter is covered with great caution and sensitivity.

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )

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


formatdvdLiberal Arts
written and directed by, and starring, Josh Radnor (DVD Liberal)

What looks, on the surface, like it might be a lightweight romantic comedy, turns out to be a surprisingly thought-provoking film about relationships, maturing, and the lure of the nostalgia of our college years.

Josh Radnor (the central figure of the long-running TV series How I Met Your Mother) plays Jesse, a 35-year-old New York college admissions advisor — hardly the fulfilling and challenging career the young English Literature major expected when he was back in college himself. When one of his favorite former professors asks him to return to the small Ohio liberal arts college he graduated from, to speak at the professor’s retirement, Jesse jumps at the chance. Back in Ohio, Jesse finds himself comforted by the familiarity of the small-town college world, but is surprised to find himself in a mutual attraction with a college sophomore girl, the daughter of friends of his professor/mentor.

The film explores Jesse’s torn feelings between having found a potential soulmate and the seeming improprieties in their 16-year age difference. Meanwhile, he is also questioning his path in life, which diverges so much from what his youthful goals had been.

This 2012 film features many excellent performances, especially Radnor as Jesse, Richard Jenkins as his mentor, Professor Hoberg, Allison Janney in a brief turn as another influential teacher in Jesse’s past, and John Magaro as Dean, a young student with depression issues, whom Jesse bonds with because Dean seems like a younger version of himself. But, the standout in this film is 23-year-old Elizabeth Olsen as Zibby, the 19-year-old female student who is unconcerned with the age gap in a relationship with Jesse. Olsen has since gone on to great acclaim in much larger projects, such as the streaming series Sorry For Your Loss, and as Wanda Maximoff in the Avengers movies and WandaVision on Disney+. She is luminous and full of life in this film, and the main reason it earns a “9” rating from me. Definitely worth checking out!

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )

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


last updated February 2022
* Please Note: The presence of a link on this site does not constitute an endorsement by Lincoln City Libraries.

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