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Staff Recommendations – July 2012

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July 2012 Recommendations

escapefromcamp14Escape From Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West
by Blaine Harden (Biography Shin)

Escape From Camp 14 is a biography about North Korean prison camp survivor Shin Dong-hyuk’s life in the Kaechon internment camp (camp 14), a “total control zone”. Coming in at a mere 224 pages, Shin’s story is a page turning quick read, which is quite short, considering the breadth of the content. Journalist Blaine Harden lends his voice to Shin’s personal biography and uses it to simultaneously provide an introductory and contemporary view into North Korean politics, history and its future. Dong-hyuk Shin is an unfortunate North Korean born into a work camp where his life revolves around slave like daily routine. Shin’s story is unique in that he is the first known escapee from such a work camp. The scope of Shin’s story is heart wrenching. His childhood consists of hard manual labor, isolation, starvation, brutal punishments, lack of family and social bonds. Shin’s education is rudimentary at best and mostly entails learning camp rules and hierarchy. Throughout the story Harden weaves context into Shin’s story by providing facts and figures associated with various outside events occurring during the time of Shin’s story. These political events influence the happenings inside the camp at times, explain newly introduced prisoners and finally his escape. In the end of this heart breaking read, Shin’s story ends on a high note in which he translates his experiences into a passion for human rights activism. There are few stories that touch so deeply and personally on the human condition of North Koreans and what it is to survive in a difficult country nonetheless a prison camp within. This biography is the perfect introduction to North Korean extremes through a personal narrative story. Those wishing to delve deeper into the issues may find it too light, but can still appreciate the fascinating account of Shin Dong-hyuk’s life. Ultimately Escape From Camp 14 is a captivating biography which will ask you what it means to be human and survive.

(If you like this, you may also enjoy Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick, Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home by Laura Ling, The World is Bigger Now: An American Journalist’s Rescue From Captivity in North Korea — A Remarkable Story of Faith, Family, and Forgiveness by Euna Lee, Inside North Korea by the National Geographic Society (DVD), The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in a North Korean Gulag by Kang Chol-Hwan and Pierre Rigoulot, Kim Jong-il: North Korea’s Dear Leader by Michael Breen.)

( Wikipedia page for Sin Dong-hyuk )


Recommended by Glory B.
Bennett Martin Public Library

strengthinwhatremainsStrength in What Remains
by Tracy Kidder (Biography Deo)

Kidder, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his book The Soul of a New Machine, has a gift for writing engrossing non-fiction, which is all the more compelling of course because it really happened. Strength in What Remains is the incredible story of a young man named Deogratias (Latin for “thanks be to God”). At 24 he was a 3rd year med student in Burundi, but as genocide raged through Burundi and Rwanda, Deo was forced into a harrowing 6 months of escape. He landed in NYC with no English, no contacts, and only $200 in his pocket. Through the generosity of strangers and his sheer determination to succeed, Deo goes from sleeping in Central Park, to a job delivering groceries for $15 a day, to being accepted into Columbia University. Yet this book is not just about his journey from unbelievable violence and despair to realizing his own aspirations of becoming a doctor. It’s also a portrait through Deo’s eyes of the genocide that killed some 800,000 people in Rwanda and Burundi, and how he is able to live with his nearly incapacitating memories of the war. I found myself thinking more than once that I would not have been able to survive what he went through (both in Africa and here in the US); it’s a riveting and uplifting book.

( official Tracy Kidder web site )


Recommended by Steph E.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries

sexonthemoonSex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History
by Ben Mezrich (629.4 Mez)

The true story of Thad Roberts, a third-year NASA co-op, who stole moon rocks in July, 2002 from a NASA safe and tried to sell them online. So titled because he put a small bag of samples from Apollo 11 on a bed beneath the sheets and he and his girlfriend had sex on the moon rocks. The story begins at high school for Thad as his strictly religious father throws him out of the house for having sex with his girlfriend. They eventually marry while he attends college and wins a co-op to NASA. Thad is living the dream (at least for us space fans) but his marriage is falling apart when he meets a fellow co-op. Spurred by his desire to impress her, he embarks on this insane scheme. Interesting to see how easily he actually accomplished the theft, and wish the author had mentioned how NASA changed security protocols (if they changed protocols and did heads roll?), but as a frustrated space cadet this reader couldn’t believe how he threw it all away. It’s especially interesting to follow the story of the European rock hound who answers Thad’s offer to sell the moon rocks. You’ll spend most of your reading time slapping your forehead with your hand saying, “What was he thinking?!” but you can’t put down this tale of stupidity until the bitter end.

( official Ben Mezrich web site )


Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library

ladyingoldThe Lady in Gold
by Anne Marie O’Connor (759.36 Kli)

Klimt’s painting was originally titled “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer,” but when the Nazis acquired it, (i.e. stole it) they changed the name to the “Lady in Gold,” since Adele was Jewish. Many years after World War II, Adele’s heirs filed suit to obtain the portrait. The book touches on both art and history and on the emotions that both can evoke.

( Publisher’s official Lady in Gold web site )


Recommended by Rianne S.
Walt Branch Library

bippoloseedThe Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Tales
by Theodore Geisel/Doctor Seuss (jP Seuss)

I grew up on Dr. Seuss books. Some of the earliest things I remember reading on my own were the traditional The Cat in the Hat, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Green Eggs and Ham, Yertle the Turtle and My Book About Me. I remember mourning when Theodore Geisel passed away in 1991, knowing that his last few books, such as The Butter Battle Book would be the last new Dr. Seuss titles I’d ever see. Therefore, I was very surprised and pleased to stumble across The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Tales on the New Books display in the kids book room. This book collects seven rare and obscure short works Geisel created for various magazines back in the 1950s and 1960s. Some of these stories play out very similarly to his well-known tales, while others are true oddities. I found myself in a nostalgic mood while enjoying this short collection — it should appeal to any Seussian fan, in addition kids having their very first Seuss experiences. Not great literature, but a fascinating look at a missing chapter in the life of Dr. Seuss!.

( publisher’s official The Bippolo Seed web site )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Screening Room

formatdvdengineeringtheimpossibledvdEngineering the Impossible
by the National Geographic Society (DVD 620 Nat)

Absolutely fascinating look at the incredible human and engineering feats that went into the construction of three of history’s most iconic structures — The Colosseum, Chartres Cathedral and the Great Pyramid of Giza. NatGeo does a great job of showing recreations of what the work would have looked like, and the exploration of how these miracles of architecture were accomplished without modern technology will blow your mind. What I found most interesting, however, was the look at engineering techniques that were first made use of for these types of massive projects, which are still in use today!

(If you like this, you may also enjoy the book To Engineer is Human by Edward Petroski.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this documentary )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

formatdvdjeremiahjohnsondvdJeremiah Johnson
(DVD Jeremiah)

An American soldier goes west to escape war and becomes a mountain man. He is taken in by an old trapper who teaches him how to survive off the land. After treading an Indian burial ground, he suffers strange misfortune: love and lives lost as well as a grudge between him and the Crow Indian tribe. Beautiful scenery and a great role portrayed by Robert Redford. Not the action-packed “cowboys and indians” Western you’d expect, rather slow moving.

(If you like this, you may also enjoy Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Gunsmoke, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, and Dances with Wolves.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )


Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library

formatdvdoneforthemoneydvdOne For the Money
based on the book by Janet Evanovich (DVD One)

Katherine Heigl and Jason O’Mara star in this Janet Evanovich book turned movie. Heigl plays Stephanie Plum a recently fired and now broke woman who is forced to take a job at her cousin’s bail bondsman business to stay afloat. Her first assignment as a bounty hunter is to find and bring in her ex (Jason O’Mara), a cop being charged with murder. But the deeper she researches the incident, the more she learns that maybe he’s innocent. A pretty funny movie, not advertised as much so it wasn’t as popular. The storyline goes along with the book, and the back and forth between Heigl and O’Mara is quite humorous.

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )


Recommended by Carrie R.
Bennett Martin Public Library

formatdvdthismeanswardvdThis Means War
(DVD This)

CIA agents FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are partners and best friend until they each fall in love with Lauren Scott (Reese Witherspoon). Each determined to win her affections they sabotage each others’ dates, but when real bad guys get involved they’re forced to work together again. A good date movie with a lot of good comedy and action moments.

(If you like this, you may also enjoy The Bounty Hunter starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler, Killers with Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher, or Star Trek starring Chris Pine.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )


Recommended by Carrie R.
Bennett Martin Public Library

last updated November 2022
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