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Staff Recommendations – October 2021

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October 2021 Recommendations

The Personal Librarian
by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray (Compact Disc Benedict)

Working in a library, as I do, I tend to flag any new books with “library” in the title, for my personal reading enjoyment. Sometimes they end up as duds, but sometimes you find a gem. This falls into the latter category.

The Personal Librarian is historical fiction, based mostly on historical fact. Born Belle Marion Greener, to black parents, under her mother’s influence, Belle changed her name to Belle da Costa Greene, and as a light-skinned woman of color, managed to pass her self off as “white” in early 1900s society. While working at the Princeton University Library, Belle was encouraged by a nephew of the great financier, J. Pierpont Morgan, to apply for the position as Morgan’s “personal librarian” at the eponymous library he was establishing to house his collection of rare manuscripts and art work. She was hired for the position, despite her young age.

This novel, based on what historical records have survived, explores Belle’s life and experiences as she helps J.P. Morgan create one of the world’s foremost libraries, and her efforts to continue their work after his passing, all while she has to conceal her true heritage from the world at large. This is 50% “love letter” to the passion for the preservation of knowledge, and 50% about Belle’s personal life and the challenges she faces maintaining a public persona that differs from her true self.

All in all, I enjoyed The Personal Librarian quite a lot. There are lots of great “moments” or “scenes” throughout the book, though in the end I felt that the driving central plot was a bit lackluster. I found Belle’s on-again/off-again relationship with a distant suitor to be a bit tiresome and overwrought. Fans of historical fiction, and of literature exploring the sacrifices made by those of African-American descent in order to fit into a racist and demeaning society, will both find much to appreciate in this one. I listened to the book-on-CD audio adaptation of The Personal Librarian, narrated by actress Robin Miles, and she does a terrific job with this novel.

( US publisher’s official The Personal Librarian web page ) | ( official Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray web sites )


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

When twenty-six-year-old Belle da Costa Greene interviews with J. P. Morgan in 1905 for the position of personal librarian to help collect rare manuscripts and art for his private Pierpont Morgan Library, she has to speak carefully. In part, she is hiding her limited library experience working at Princeton University Library and her teacher’s education. However she also is hiding a much bigger and dangerous secret. Belle is not who she seems. Her middle name is not da Costa and she doesn’t get her dark complexion from a Portuguese grandmother. Belle da Costa Greene is actually Belle Marion Greener. Her heritage is African American and her father was the first Black graduate from Harvard and a vocal advocate of equal rights. Although the book is fiction, authors Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray create a story of what it must have been like for real-life Belle Marion Greener to work with the out-spoken Morgan, act as an intelligent and witty competitor in a world of men, and all the while keep her true identity protected. Some women celebrate her accomplishments and use her as a model as they fight for equal rights; others would prefer to see her fail. In addition, she has to keep her romantic relationship discreet because of his heritage and her employer’s dislike and competition with the man.

As a historical fiction novel, I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about this strong, clever, and inspiring woman, as well as the rare manuscript and art collection she helped assemble and eventually make available to the general public. Although there was always the underlying threat that Belle might be discovered, I didn’t feel an overwhelming urgency to the story. I didn’t find myself racing to get to the next chapter. Perhaps the two authors felt that it was important to put together a book to educate its reader rather than entice. I will say that if you are a lover of historic fiction, this is one to put on your reading list just to learn about this inspiring woman.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Paris Library by Janet Skeslian Charles or The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin.)


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

Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking, 3rd Ed.
by Nicolas Collins (Music 786.7 Col)

Previous editions of Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking have been very popular in the DIY electronic music community, and for good reason: this is the kind of book that can walk you safely through basic circuitry concepts even if you’re a total novice. I was a lucky owner of an earlier edition of the book, and armed with its easy-to-follow information and a fairly inexpensive trip to Radio Shack, I was able to make basic electronic musical tools, like contract microphones.

Most of the book focuses on modifying the kinds of discarded electronic gadgets you may have in a closet, or that you can easily obtain at a thrift store: radios, cassette players, and musical children’s toys: generally a range of battery-operated gadgets. With a little understanding of how circuits work, you can make all kinds of fun and unexpected sounds by repurposing these often discarded items, while having some fun and learning a little about the fundamentals of electronic music in the process. Some of these projects have a kind of philosophical satisfaction, like learning how to turn microphones into speakers, and speakers into microphones. Everything is related in electronic music.

This new edition includes 12 new chapters with over 40 new hardware-based projects that you can make at home, four chapters that focus on software-based concepts that are similar to hardware hacking, and a website with additional support materials to guide you through it all. Perhaps most interesting of all, there are 8 new chapters that focus on the history of DIY electronic music from around the world, taking the book beyond being a project guide into helping connect potential electronic music-makers with like-minded communities wherever they live. A lot of this new material is found on the companion website for the book, creating an interesting new kind of hybrid creation that still functions as a book while offering a lot of multimedia material that really enhances the experience. Some things have been removed from this latest edition, too: as newer toys are harder to circuit-bend, some of those projects have been retired.

The same clear, readable style and approach is still used to describe each project, which I think is the ultimate strength of this book. You’ll learn the “hows” of many projects, while also getting a sense of the “whys” behind the functionality of common electronic devices. This practical way of approaching what could otherwise become pretty confusing can lead to your own creative adventures with electronics and sound. And safety is always paramount in the instructions, so you’ll develop good habits working with electrical devices (the battery-powered devices investigated here are generally safer than their wall-connected cousins).

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Junkyard Jam Band: DIY Musical Instruments and Noisemakers by David Erik Nelson, Make: Analog Synthesizers by Ray Wilson or Mirror Sound: A Look Into the People and Processes Behind Self-Recorded Music by Spencer Tweedy.)

( publisher’s official Handmade Electronic Music web page ) | ( official Nicolas Collins web site )

See Polley Music Librarian Scott S.’s new Experimental Music booklist here on BookGuide!


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

Oh My Gods!
by Stephanie Cooke (jPB (Series) Cooke)

Junior High isn’t easy on anyone, but imagine if you are a Greek god — or even the daughter of Zeus himself. That’s the premise for a new graphic novel series by Stephanie Cooke and Insha Fitzpatrick entitled Oh My Gods! I found this graphic novel to be entertaining, especially for pre- and early teens, and even humorous at times. I also appreciated that illustrator Juliana Moon drew the characters with realistic body shapes.

Thirteen-year-old Karen’s mother announces that she is relocating for a new job and Karen finds herself relocating as well, to Greece to live with her dad, Zed. But things at Mt. Olympus Junior High seem a little off. It doesn’t seem like a typical middle school, or else the students seem super committed to the theatrical arts. Honestly, it’s a little surprising that the main character Karen takes so long to pick up on the gag. But eventually it all clicks into place for Karen. The students are actually gods and goddesses of Greek mythology — Apollo, Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite — and her father, Zed, is really Zeus, the dean and mayor. Through an unfortunate coincidence, just as Karen begins classes, students begin turning to stone. Karen has to clear her name and get to the bottom of things with the help of her new friends; especially when her new friend Pol (Apollo) is turned to stone.

Oh My Gods!, the graphic novel (not to be confused with the book Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs), is literally a comic book of Greek Mythology for fourth through sixth graders. And once you polish off this book, you can look for Oh My Gods 2, The Forgotten Maze, in which Karen and her friends look for an online troll in an old minotaur maze.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson or The Magical Reality of Nadia by Bassem Youssef.)

( official Oh My Gods! (Book One) page on the official Stephanie Cooke web site )


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

The Last Thing He Told Me
by Laura Dave (Dave)

Here’s the situation: your doorbell rings and a 12-year-old girl in a soccer uniform dispassionately hands you a note from your husband. All it says is “Protect her,” obviously referring to your stepdaughter Bailey. You can’t reach him by phone. He doesn’t come home. You are stuck at home with a 16-year-old stepdaughter who hates you, who also received a message. But hers came with a duffel bag stuffed with hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Hannah Hall, a wood turning artist, has to question everything she has ever really known about her husband, Owen Michaels, when he disappears. His boss and the company he works for is under investigation by the FBI for fraud. Is the conscientious, loving man she thought she knew part of the fraud, or is he hiding something deeper and more sinister? And at the end of the story, you may ask yourself if you would make the same heart-breaking choice as Hannah makes.

The Last Thing He Told Me has a fantastic plot and is wonderfully told. So wonderfully that you will find you are going to want to read more titles by Laura Dave. But you may find you have to wait your turn. At this writing, all of her other books in the Lincoln City Library system are already on hold.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson or Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.)

( publisher’s official The Last Thing He Told Me web page ) | ( official Laura Dave web site )


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

He Started It
by Samantha Downing (Downloadable Audio Downing)

I had read a different book of Samantha Downing’s about a year ago and found it to be extremely entertaining. At the end of it, there was a surprising twist. The same happened with this book, although the story was vastly different.

I loved the dynamic between the siblings in this story! I kept wanting to be like Portia, the youngest sister, though, in reality, I’d probably be more like the main character (with some serious exceptions).

The idea that I could potentially have an amazing inheritance from a family member someday, but that I’d have to go to great lengths in order to obtain that inheritance…. that’s fascinating to me. Would I go through with it? Probably… But I’m not sure I’d go through all the things that happen in this story!

( official Books Information page on the official Samantha Downing web site )


Recommended by Tracy B.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries

The Ghost of Flight 401
by John G. Fuller (eBook)

Many years ago I read this book about events regarding the crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 in Florida in 1972, having a moderate interest in paranormal happenings. Fuller did a lot of research and presented things in a matter-of-fact way, which made the circumstances even more compelling. This non-fiction book is considered by some to be the first truly convincing book about the existence of posthumous spirits. Whether or not there is validity to the Flight 401 ghost stories — and former astronaut Frank Borman, who was the CEO of Eastern at the time, said there was none — it is engrossing reading. Among Fuller’s other books are The Interrupted Journey, which chronicles the claimed 1961 alien abduction of Barney and Betty Hill, and several works about scientific issues such as chemical pollution. Fuller was also a playwright and a television writer and director. Ghost… and Interrupted… were both made into TV movies in the late 1970s. Fuller’s wife Elizabeth, a flight attendant, wrote her own book about helping him with his 401 research and their subsequent marriage.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Interrupted Journey: Two Lost Hours “Aboard a Flying Saucer”, The Airmen Who Would Not Die, and Fever! all by John G. Fuller or My Search for the Ghost of Flight 401 by Elizabeth Fuller.)

( Wikipedia page about the crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 ) | ( Wikipedia page about John G. Fuller )


Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

I Have Been Buried Under Years of Dust
by Valerie Gilpeer and Emily Grodin (Biography Grodin)

This book is the fascinating true story of Emily Grodin, an autistic adult woman who overcame many obstacles with the support and fierce determination of her parents to help her find her voice. Emily’s parents challenged the school districts year after year in their struggle to provide Emily with a quality education amidst her peers. Although Emily was not able to communicate, she was clearly an intelligent person with the ability to absorb everything around her. A breakthrough finally comes during her college years when she begins to communicate using a keyboard and the facilitated communication method. With the ability to finally communicate with her parents and college peers, Emily’s world opens up and she begins to create goals for her own future. One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book is the presentation of her life through her parents’ words, followed by Emily’s own descriptions of what was going on in her mind at that time. This inspiring story is well worth reading. It also includes original poetry composed by Emily after her breakthrough.

( official Book and Authors web site )


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

Five Little Indians
by Michelle Good (Good)

In Five Little Indians, Michelle Good, a Cree writer and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, braids together the true stories of five fictional Residential School Survivors. At times humorous, often sobering, and always engrossing, this tale of five young people who struggled and survived their childhood experiences in Indian Residential Schools, drew me in, and left me with a better understanding of the repercussions of the childhood trauma on individuals, their families, and their friends.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try I Am Not A Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis & Kathy Kacer, Sugar Falls by David A. Robertson, Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga, Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese or Good Friday on the Rez by David Bunnell.)

( publisher’s official Five Little Indians web page ) | ( official Michelle Good web site )


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

The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton: A Basically True Biography
by Jerry Grillo (Music 781.66 Ham)

Col. Bruce Hampton was an artist whose work uncovered connections between all kinds of musical genres, from country to blues to rock to jazz to jam bands to experimental music, often with a unique sense of humor and a disregard for preconceived notions. Sometimes Hampton’s music was misunderstood. In fact, his career got off to a shaky start with the release of his Hampton Grease Band’s debut album, “Music to Eat,” which is said to have been the 2nd worst selling album on Columbia Records of all time (only undersold by an instructional yoga record). But perhaps the music was simply too far ahead of its time, as it’s been reissued several times since its 1971 release, and has generally received very positive critical reception in retrospective reviews. At any rate, its lack of accolades upon release didn’t slow the good Col. down, and he went on to lead an idiosyncratic and entertaining 50-year musical career, leading lots of bands and mentoring younger generations of musicians. And he became a bit of a musical legend around his home base of Atlanta, Georgia.

He was a bit of a prankster in interviews, and as such tracking down the history of his career can be somewhat daunting. However, we now have a biography that has aimed to cut through as many of the tall tales and fables around Bruce Hampton as possible, and his story is just as interesting and fun as you might expect. It’s called The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton: A Basically True Biography by journalist Jerry Grillo, published appropriately enough by the University of Georgia Press, and you can borrow the book from Polley.

Before we even get into the life and times of the Col., the book starts at the end of his life. It’s a surreal story, and perhaps it’s best to get it out of the way. In fact, many people may have heard of Bruce Hampton because of his unusual death: for his 70th birthday, many of his friends and colleagues through the years put together a special concert night for him. During the final song of the encore, with most of the night’s performers all on stage together with Hampton, he suffered a fatal heart attack and slumped down on the stage. It took a couple of minutes for the performers to realize what had happened, as his performance antics had sometimes included things like falling down, but when it became clear that he wasn’t getting back up, the show transformed from a joyous celebration to a shocking, tragic night. And it turns out that Hampton had mentioned to friends that he guessed he would probably die onstage, just a few months before the Hampton 70 event. The story became national news, and it’s arguable that it received more widespread attention than some of his music had. So perhaps this is the perfect time for a biography: those who heard that story can fill in the fascinating, unruly 50 years of music that came before.

After this tragic but necessary introduction, we head back toward the earliest days of the Col’s life. It turns out that there is a fair amount of tragedy in his origins, too, which perhaps explains his interest in building up a mystique over his career rather than focus on where he came from. His parents abandoned him early in his life, and he went to live with his grandparents at just a few weeks old, and then his aunt and uncle took over the job when he was a toddler. But even this earliest period of his life laid some foundations for his future: he was given the nickname “Col.” as a baby, and developed an early love for music from his grandparents’ servant Liza Mae Williams, whom he recalls would sing for hours every night.

His life improved with his aunt and uncle, who went on to have another child, and the two of them were raised essentially as brothers, remaining very close throughout life. The young Bruce Hampton was interested in sports, mostly baseball and football. He also got excited about music as a listener in his teens, buying lots of blues, jazz and gospel records and listening to the radio frequently. He entered the world of performance almost accidentally, by getting invited to sing with local Atlanta band IV of IX. He immediately loved singing in a band and started to take vocal technique and showmanship very seriously.

As mentioned earlier, Hampton’s first project was the Hampton Grease Band, who played lots of free outdoor shows in the Atlanta area and developed a bit of a following. Ultimately, they failed to break into the more national level of the music business. The bulk of this book goes on document the many bands that Hampton started throughout his career. He developed into quite the bandleader and frontman, and although his own technique as a musician remained fairly primitive, he had a knack for surrounding himself with very talented musicians in all of his bands. And he developed a vision for blending many styles of music in unique ways, sometimes being referred to as the Frank Zappa of the South. His bands would play lots of shows, but didn’t do many formal recordings—some didn’t record at all, while others, like his most acclaimed outfit, the Aquarium Rescue Unit, would only record one studio album. But all of them found themselves working within the increasingly diverse world that’s now referred to as the “jam band” scene, full of groups that based their work in various strains of rock, folk, country, blues and gospel music, and incorporated lots of improvisation. Many folks think of jam band music as an outcropping of the culture that originally followed the Grateful Dead, and it’s true that there are hippie and psychedelic origins to the scene, but over time, many kinds of musical approaches have found a home among jam bands. It’s intriguing music, to be sure, offering the familiarity of many strains of Americana music along with the adventurous nature of never knowing quite what will happen to a particular song during a performance.

Ultimately, Hampton is portrayed more or less like you might expect him to be: playful and funny with a bit of mystery still surrounding him (he often guessed people’s birthdays upon first meeting them, and was frequently correct right to the day). And he inspired those around him, influencing several generations of musicians in the Atlanta area as a bit of a sage-like character. And his music sounds a lot like his personality.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try RIYL: JAMerica: The History of the Jam Band and Festival Scene by Peter H. Conners or One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band by Alan Paul.)

( publisher’s official The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton web page ) | ( official Jerry Grillo web site )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

Guilty Pleasures
by Laurell K. Hamilton (Hamilton)

Anita Blake, Animator (not friendly cartoons, dead people) and Vampire Executioner, is tasked with finding a serial killer who specializes in vampires. Anita is a strong, hard as nails woman who literally raises people from the grave (usually for will clarifications or final good byes) and executes vampires. Guilty Pleasures is a gritty story with a cast-iron heroine who will face obstacles that force her to challenge her perspectives.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Moon Called by Patricia Briggs, Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews, Dark Lover: A Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward or Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison.)

( official Guilty Pleasures page on the official Laurell K. Hamilton web site )


Recommended by Rio B.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service

The Tommyknockers
by Stephen King (King)

This was a re-read for me — I pick this up every four or five years and give it another go, to see if I love it as much as I did the last time. It never lets me down!

The Tommyknockers is truly a scary story, with creepy aliens and the affects that their slow takeover have on the inhabitants of a small town in Maine. And I love the scary parts! But what I love more is the relationship between Jim “Gard” Gardner and Roberta “Bobbi” Anderson. They’re both writers, which always appealed to me as a would-be writer (aren’t we ALL would-be writers?), and they’ve known each other for decades. They’ve been there for each other during hard times, and they’re still there for each other during this worst hard time!

( official The Tommyknockers page on the official Stephen King web site )


Recommended by Tracy B.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries

Shortbread and Shadows
by Amy Lane (eBook)

This series follows a coven of modern-day male witches (best friends, who all live as neighbors and roommates on a dead-end street) who screw up a spell. Now two of their friends are caught in a time/space rift in their house, the neighborhood animals are behaving in a scary, weird fashion (birds flying upside-down, squirrels marching in single file), and a vague darkness is spreading throughout their cul-de-sac.

Along with trying to figure out the spell, Book #1 deals with baker Bartholomew’s crush on Lachlan, the woodworker whose booth is usually next to Bartholomew’s booth at local fairs and conventions where they both sell their wares.

Each book in this series follows the romance and courting of one of the friends in their coven, along with trying to sort out the spell, and resolving the hex they inadvertently created. This story arc will continue through the entire series.

Shortbread and Shadows is a sweet, light-hearted, easy read of witches, spells, and romance that provides an enjoyable afternoon. At this time, available from the library as an ebook on Hoopla.

Book #2, Portals and Puppy Dogs is also available on Hoopa as an ebook. Book #3, Pentacles and Pelting Plants is due out October 19.

( publisher’s official Shortbread and Shadows web page ) | ( official Amy Lane Twitter feed )


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

Strangeworlds Travel Agency
by L.D. Lapinski (j Lapinski)

Twelve-year-old Flick Hudson wanders into a dusty, unassuming travel agency as she explores her new home in Little Wyverns. The only person in the shop is a dapper teenage boy drinking a cup of tea. It all seems quite ordinary and boring. But as you might guess, the Strangeworlds Travel Agency is not. It is the front for an incredible gateway to exciting worlds. All you have to do is step into a suitcase.

It’s a book of magic, of worlds with imaginative scenery, and of characters who are helpers and others who are takers. There’s eerie danger and the chance that if you enter another world, you might not return.

Young Flick has always done what she needed to do to help her parents make ends meet and take care of her baby brother. She’s always been available and dependable. But when she agrees to join the Strangworlds Travel Agency, her life becomes filled with action and danger. And it gets even more precarious when she agrees to help custodian Jonathan Mercator trace the footsteps of his lost father.

I especially enjoyed Strangeworlds Travel Agency because the worlds Lapinski creates are truly unique. In one world, the characters bounce around like they are flying off a trampoline. In another world, they visit a candy shop that fills an entire sky-scraper. I also appreciated that even though it is a juvenile book, there is an element of real danger and the chance that the main character may never return. And even more tempting is the possibility of returning to the imaginative world of Strangeworlds in future sequels. The Edge of the Ocean was released in April 2021 and number three, The Secrets of the Stormforest is due out in April 2022. Mysteries are left hanging; more thrillers need to be solved and more wrongs need to be put right. It’s the perfect book for students third through fifth grade who enjoy magic, other worlds, and mystery.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Last Shadow Warrior by Sam Subity, The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau or The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann.)

( official Strangeworlds Travel Agency series page on the official L.D. Lapinski web site )


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

The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as Told to His Brother)
by David Levithan (j Levithan)

Lucas’ older brother, Aidan, disappears in the middle of the night with no clues about what happened. Six days later, he appears in their windowless attic when the house is full of people who have been searching for him, or his body. When Lucas asks Aidan where he was, he answers: Aveinieu. And he says he got there through the dresser in the attic.

Their parents, the police, and everyone in town is glad Aidan is home safe, but they want to know where Aidan really was. This is a book about people who care about kids, but want another another truth than the one they’re hearing. Especially (but not exclusively) applicable to queer kids.

The suspense kept me reading until I finished this short book in one evening, and the ending was satisfying. I bet you’d have a riot from students if you tried to drag this book out in small classroom read-aloud sessions. Excellent!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis or Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire — recommended for adults and teens, not kids.)

( publisher’s official Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S web site ) | ( official David Levithan web site )


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

The History of Bones: A Memoir
by John Lurie (Music 781.65 Lur)

John Lurie was one of those folks who simply seemed cool in the 1980s: He’d been running his own band, the Lounge Lizards, since the late 70s, and they had a unique kind of punk-jazz sound that was unmatched. When Lurie started to work at film scoring in the 80s, he found himself also cast in some of the films, like “Down By Law” and “Stranger Than Paradise.” He even wrote the theme music for the long-running Late Night with Conan O’Brien show. In the early 90s, he was featured on the Independent Film Channel’s “Fishing With John” show, which ostensibly had him going on fishing trips with other celebrities, but of course much of the fun was simply in his interactions with his guests like Tom Waits or Dennis Hopper. And he’s recently become the star of HBO’s “Painting With John,” which focuses on him and his lifelong hobby of painting, but still takes some extra-subject cues from the style of Fishing With John. He’s mentioned having a memoir nearly finished in interviews dating back at least 15 years, and now it has arrived as The History of Bones, which you can check out from Polley.

Lurie turns out to be an incredibly engaging writer, and I think even those with only a passing interest in his music or acting will find this book hard to put down. For those interested in more about the history of that fascinating late 70s/early 80s period in NYC when so many new kinds of music and musical hybrids blossomed, Lurie was in the middle of it all, and has a great memory for detail. Like so many artists of the era, he ended up in the city without a precise plan, but so many creative people had congregated that almost anything could and did happen. But first we get started in Worcester, MA around high school age, where the Lurie family and John in particular go through a number of coming-of-age experiences in the space of just a few years. Some of these early experiences are pretty depressing: his father dies and his mother ends up returning to her native Wales, leaving John and his two siblings largely to fend for themselves as young adults. But some are positive, and I have to say, downright weird, like the tale of how John came upon his first saxophone: out wandering the streets at 4AM, he met a random person pushing a wheelbarrow, the two of them have a strange conversation, Lurie helps the man with his wheelbarrow of dirt, and the man lends him a tenor saxophone and a bicycle. Having already learned the harmonica and the guitar, this ends up being a transformative night.

Once he arrives in New York, The History of Bones feels almost like the stuff of fables. The twists and turns of Lurie’s life from 1974 to 1980 are more complicated than most folks’ entire lives. Amazing creative relationships and beautiful art is plentiful throughout this period, but this doesn’t read as a conventional happy story, either, as Lurie and most of his contemporaries struggle with lots of substance abuse issues as their work develops. While there’s some cliché to be had in stories of artists who develop drug problems, first feeling like their work is tremendously helped before becoming haunted by addictions that can take lifetimes to beat, there’s something noble about the way he and his peers just kept fighting, and ultimately most of them found their way to the other side. That said, the earlier portion of Lurie’s memoir isn’t for the faint of heart.

Later sections of The History of Bones focus more on the business side of the Lounge Lizards, and the many complications Lurie encountered trying to take this large band on tours and into recording studios. These sections of the book aren’t as chronological or as thorough—they feel more like the result of Lurie thinking of the many tribulations the band had to fight through over the years, and one story simply leads to another. These are pretty relatable stories for many folks who have tried to make it in the music business: show promoters don’t pay guarantees or sell your tour to some other promoter who drops the ball. Record labels don’t follow through with proper promotion. Band members get concerned about perceived unfairness with money issues, but they don’t know about all of the expenses you’re taking on on as bandleader. Recording sessions don’t go the way you plan. Television appearances get scuttled for strange reasons. And along the way, you can get a reputation for being a “difficult” person to work with, even if you’re just trying to transcend all of these challenges. There are even newer perils for contemporary musicians to avoid, like how streaming music cuts into recording income and now how to navigate pandemics, but all of Lurie’s experiences are valuable information for musicians to consider, especially if you’re trying to work with an ensemble larger than the usual rock band configuration.

The History of Bones doesn’t get into much of Lurie’s life in the last 20 years. There are allusions to occasional events from the last two decades—a brief comparison of an earlier hack journalist piece to the New Yorker article that ran in 2006 springs to mind—but for the most part, this is a story of the 70s through the 90s. I must admit to being curious about what he’s been up to in the time that he’s been mostly out of the spotlight, but it’s his memoir, and he’s decided to keep his current whereabouts and activities more private. At least now we have the “Painting With John” show to connect with him in the present day, and he’s even been active with his musical alter-ego Marvin Pontiac project in the last few years, so hopefully there’s enough Lurie for everyone.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try No Wave: Post-Punk, Underground, New York, 1976-1980 by Thurston Moore, Unstrung: Rants and Stories of a Noise Guitarist by Marc Ribot or New York Noise: Radical Jewish Music and the Downtown Scene by Tamar Barzel.)

( publisher’s official The History of Bones: A Memoir web page ) | ( official web site )


Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

The Bench
by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex (jP Meghan)

Although I am not a huge Duchess Meghan (formerly Meghan Merkle) fan, I recommend her children’s book The Bench, not necessarily because of the story, but the illustrations are simply beautiful. Illustrator Christian Robinson, a Caldecott artist who also illustrated the books Last Stop on Market Street, You Matter, and my favorite, Milo Imagines the World, has created some incredibly beautiful multicultural images of fathers holding, watching, napping, building, and playing with their young sons.

The book features images of all kinds of fathers and their children on benches, of all shapes and sizes, experiencing all sorts of moments of happiness and sadness, growing and loving. The Bench offers a lovely message from a mother’s point of view of the remarkable relationship of fathers and sons.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Milo Imagines The World or Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Peña.)

( publisher’s official The Bench web page ) | ( Wikipedia page for Meghan, Duccess of Sussex )


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

How to Become a Planet
by Nicole Melleby (j Melleby)

Pluto is a kid who loves visiting science centers, watching meteor showers, and working in her mom’s pizza restaurant by the beach. Or at least she did until she had to skip the end of seventh grade and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

This summer, Pluto has a list of goals that she believes–if she accomplishes them — will mean she’ll go back to the Pluto she was before. She meets a new friend who has a list of her own and they find they can help each other. This story is filled with references to astronomy, especially about the planet Pluto’s re-designation and the Challenger disaster. While Pluto-the-person’s struggles can be tough to experience with her at times and there’s no magical “fix,” tweens and adults readers both can learn a lot about what it looks like to live with depression and learn how to thrive again.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Benefits of Being An Octopus by Ann Braden or Focused by Alyson Gerber.)

( official How to Become a Planet page on the official Nicole Melleby web site )


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

The Return of the Sorceress
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Moreno-Garcia)

The Return of the Sorceress is fantasy novella that manages a whole lot of story in just under 100 pages. Yalxi is a woman cast down from her position of power, dying from her wounds, but set on a mission of revenge. She turns to an old ally from her childhood for help. As the story goes on, the purity of her intentions are called into question. A quick read that lingers like a time-honed legend.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, or The Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone.)

( official The Return of the Sorceress page on the official Silvio Moreno-Garcia web site )


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

by Anna North (North)

Outlawed is a western set in the 1890s, but not exactly the one in our history books. A flu epidemic several generations before killed 90% of Americans (or at least that many white Americans). The United States government dissolved. Much of white American Christianity shifted focus from Jesus’ death and resurrection to the baby Jesus as a fertility god, with a new manifest destiny to repopulate.

Ada is the daughter of a revered midwife, but she turns out to be infertile herself. Everyone knows infertile women are likely to turn into witches and curse other women with infertility, kill babies, and bring general disaster to their community. Ada is forced to flee into hiding to escape execution. She still wants to learn what causes infertility, but she finds a community of other outcasts making their own way in the world with guns in their hands.

This was a delightful read for me, especially when it came to Ada learning how to be an outlaw. It’s a violent adventure with broad racial and queer representation. I’d recommend it to western fans and to people who have never read a western novel in their lives.

A book club selection by Reese Witherspoon.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey or The Grace Year by Kim Liggett.)

( official Outlawed page on the official Anna North web site )


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

Cursed Objects: Strange But True Stories of the World’s Most Infamous Items
by J.W. Ocker (001.94 Oct)

I always enjoy reading at least one “creepy” or “spooky” thing during October, and this book jumped off the “New Books” display at the downtown library and caught my attention.

In Cursed Objects, author J.W. Ocker provides short, punchy chapters about 43 cursed objects in human history, from well-known things like The Hope Diamond, the Amber Room and James Dean’s Porsche 550 Spyder, to items you’ve probably never heard of. Each item gets anywhere from 3-4 pages, all the way up to 9-10 pages, outlining the object’s origin and history, and the ill fates suffered by those associated with the item. Ocker takes a light, slightly sarcastic tone throughout, at times almost mocking the beliefs some people may have about the “curses” on the items.

I thought I was just going to skim this one, but it ended up turning out to be a compelling read. Whether or not you believe in curses, yourself, learning the history associated with these 43 objects is both satisfying and edifying. A perfect read for a spooky month!

(One disappointing note: There are no photographic illustrations in this fairly thick book — the only illustrations are simplistic, cartoonish drawings. I found that to be a failing. That dropped it one point in my review score.)

( official Cursed Objects page on Odd Things I’ve Seen — J.W. Ocker’s official travel blog/web site )


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

The Turn of the Key
by Ruth Ware (Downloadable Audio Ware)

I haven’t read Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw, but I’m under the impression Ruth Ware’s story is similar in many ways (not just the title).

That being said, I really liked this story. Although I cannot see myself being a live-in nanny (as the protagonist of this book was), I have babysat enough children to understand the feelings and challenges met by this woman. All things considered, I was typically on her side and would have probably responded to each situation the same way she did. I really empathized with her!

One thing I found very intriguing was the idea of the house, where this family lived, was turned into a Smart House. I found that very exciting and would love to have such capabilities in my own home someday. Or, at least, I thought so at the beginning of the story…

( official The Turn of the Key page on the official Ruth Ware web site )

See Tracy T.’s review of Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 in the June 2018 Staff Recommendations here on BookGuide!


Recommended by Tracy B.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries

The Real James Herriot
by Jim Wright (B H4355w)

Having recently read all of James Herriot’s books, I decided that I wanted to know more about the author of these delightful stories. Within our own collection of biographies is an excellent biography of Alf Wight (the man behind the books) as told by his son, Jim Wight. No one could have done a better job in relating all of the things that made Alf such a master storyteller than the man who spent his entire life working alongside his father in the Yorkshire veterinary practice that Alf Wight describes so lovingly through his books. Alf Wight had been approached many times by publishers wanting to write his biography, but he had always turned them down. In his later years, he told his son Jim that if ever a biography were to be written about him, he would want his son to be the one to do it. Jim Wight would be the first to tell you that he was not a writer, but he accepted the challenge as a testament of his respect and love for the man whom he called Dad and with whom he worked side by side in the veterinary practice in Thirsk.

This was a deeply personal book, relating Alf’s experiences growing up in Glasgow, Scotland and the difficulties of his early years as a veterinarian in Yorkshire. Although Alf Wight did a wonderful job of showing the trials and triumphs of his career, we get to see behind the scenes with descriptions of health problems he faced, in particular, his bouts with depression. This is an excellent book and filled with the same humor that I cherished so much in the James Herriot books. If you want to know more about the “real” James Herriot, then look no further. Here you will find “a totally honest man whose fine sense of humor and air of goodwill towards other ensured that he was respected by all who knew him.”

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try James Herriot’s Yorkshire, All Creatures Great and Small, or any other titles by James Herriot.)

( official web site ) | ( official web site ) | ( Wikipedia article on James Herriot )

See Kim J.’s review of the new PBS series All Creatures Great and Small in the June 2021 Staff Recommendations here on BookGuide!

See Kim J.’s review of James Herriot’s The Lord God Made Them All in the September 2021 Staff Recommendations here on BookGuide!


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

Screening Room

(DVD Becky)

My wife and I checked out Becky for viewing, despite “horror” movies not necessarily being one of our main interests — mainly for the reason that her name is Becky, and we were amused enough by the coincidence to see what the filmmakers had in mind.

As it turns out, what they had in mind was a perfectly serviceable suspense thriller, with some noteworthy performances. Lulu Wilson is surly teenager Becky, still grieving the loss of her mother, but forced to accompany her father, her dad’s new girlfriend and that woman’s young son, on a weekend excursion to a remote house in the woods. Not long after they arrive, escaped psychopathic convict Dominick (Kevin James, playing against type), and his three henchmen, arrive at the cabin, in search of something that had been hidden there. Becky just happens to have been out in the woods when the bad guys show up and take the rest of the family hostage. The rest of the film is a cat-and-mouse game between Becky and the psychopath, with plenty of gratuitous violence thrown in.

Wilson does a terrific job playing an emotionally damaged teenager forced to do things no-one should be forced to do. Kevin James, most recognizable as the star of the sitcom The King of Queens, is suitably creepy as the main bad guy. The huge actor Robert Maillet plays Dominick’s conflicted right-hand man. Most of the rest of the cast is disposable.

While Becky wasn’t a “great” film, it was certainly compelling enough, and had some very memorable moments. Not for the squeamish, though…

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )


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

formatdvdCandyman (1992)
(DVD Candyman)

I first heard about this movie when it came out, in 1992. I had not seen it, as I didn’t typically like scary movies. However, I was living in Chicago at the time that it came out, and I actually was working with a young woman who had spent part of her youth living in the Cabrini Greens projects….which is where this story takes place. Also, my roommate at the time worked in an after-school program for low-income teens…they were TERRIFIED of this movie.

Fast forward to present day: I’ve seen both movies made by director and comedian Jordan Peele, and he’s an amazingly talented director. So when my husband and I heard he was making a sequel to the 1992 version of Candyman, we decided we needed to watch that version first. While it was a bit on the cheesy side, as many horror films are, it was definitely scary! A bonus was that the main character in the film is Virginia Madsen, who was fabulous in Sideways.

In anticipation for the Halloween spooky movies (or just to give yourself a fun scare any time of year), I would definitely recommend you give this film a viewing!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Get Out and Us, both directed by Jordan Peele.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this 1992 film )


Recommended by Tracy B.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries

formatdvdFinding You
(DVD Finding)

Pleasant little relationship film, with equal parts humor and drama, set against the gorgeous backdrops of the Irish countryside.

18-year-old Finley Sinclair is a violin virtuoso, but still failed to impress the judges when auditioning for a performing arts school. So, she follows in her late brother’s footsteps by applying to study for a semester abroad, in Ireland, staying with the same host family her brother did just a few years earlier.

Also staying at that family’s B&B is young heart-throb film star Beckett Rush, in Ireland to film the latest in his international hit film series about a medieval hero in a world of dragons. Beckett is trying to keep a low profile and avoid the young actress he’s rumored to be “a couple” with. Despite Finley’s best efforts to avoid Beckett, they keep running into each and spending time with each other.

In a B-plot, as part of her studies, Finley is required to befriend a senior in a care facility, and finds herself fascinated to learn why that woman is so bitter and angry.

For such a frothy “romance” film, there’s some serious stuff going on in Finding You, and the relatively young cast does a fine job with it all. Patrick Bergin (as a lively Irish fiddler who mentors Finley) and Vanessa Redgrave (as the embittered older woman Finley must befriend) both turn in marvelous performances as well. The Irish countryside is well-represented, and in Finley’s musical journey, we get treated to several sessions of Irish pub music.

All in all, a very enjoyable film.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try If Only (with Jennifer Love Hewitt) or Leap Year with Amy Adams.)

(Based on the Christian novel There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )


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

last updated September 2023
* Please Note: The presence of a link on this site does not constitute an endorsement by Lincoln City Libraries.