Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Let's Just Say it Wasn't Pretty
By Diane Keaton

I know sometimes we think that being a movie star or being rich and famous is the top standard in life. If we can achieve this then we would not have to worry about small, everyday things like taking out the trash, shoveling snow, eating healthy or zits with bad timing. But honestly, if we stopped to think about it, those things don’t just go away because you live in a nice place in California. These people have real, everyday, battles just like you and me. They have to learn how to be themselves with more pressure than you and I do! (I think I have pressure to look nice when I come to work and I work with people who are my friends! I can’t imagine all the pressure from magazines and paparazzi, etc)

This is what Diane Keaton writes about in her new biography Let’s Just Say it Wasn’t Pretty. It is a fun, witty journal of her drive to being content with who she is and learning to stand out. What is real beauty? Is this fake, everyone-looks-the-same-Barbie-doll-version we have going on now in society real beauty? What if you don’t fit into the mold? Are you broken or are you a banner for individual style and expression? Keaton tells a few amusing anecdotes about her experiences in this area.

I enjoyed this clever look at an age-old question through the eyes of someone who seems to “have it all.” If you are looking for a fun, quick read I would highly suggest this book.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

This Movie Will Require Dinosaurs
By C.W. Neill

I was walking by the new nonfiction book display last week and this title caught my eye. I picked up the book and was so glad I did.

Curt Neill is a struggling screenwriter who created and writes for the blog Untitled Screenplays (untitledscreenplays.tumblr.com). He has a hilarious sense of humor about his own splashes of and lacks of creativity. Each page is an attempted screenplay that Neill has started. He never makes it to page two but he cleverly makes fun of the technicalities of screenplays and movies in general.  I read this book from cover to cover in one sitting but it would also be a wonderful book to read a few pages on occasion for a good laugh. I enjoyed the individual snapshots of screenplays. Some I wish he could have written more pages and fleshed it out to an actual screenplay and others I just laughed at and thought “That was a bad start!”

If you are looking for a light, enjoyable read I would highly suggest this book.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
By Robert M. Edsel

Firstly, I am a huge history buff and a history major so a fair amount of the books I review on this blog will be about fantastic tales, or people, from history. Though, I will do my best to never recommend a dry, boring, this-is-taking-me-back-to-high-school history book. :) With that being said…

This book was published back in 2010 but the movie just came out in February so I bumped it to the top of my reading list. (A list which is pages long, in case you were wondering. Honestly, I don’t think I will ever reach the end.)

This book tells the remarkable story of an Allied special force at the end of World War II tasked to find and protect all of the fine art treasures stolen by the Nazi’s during their conquest of Europe. Hitler had hidden art from thousands of years of European and world culture and the Allies feared he was going to destroy it when he knew Germany would be defeated.

Numerous art curators, scholars, historians, architects and archivists, from over 13 different Allied countries, were tasked to spearhead this operation. The beginning of the book was rather slow but as soon as the treasure hunt picks up I was swept into the story as the men and women risked their lives to locate and restore thousands of years of art, statues and treasures from certain elimination at Nazi hands.

If you are looking for an exceptional story from a well-documented time in history, this would be a great read.

Friday, March 21, 2014

If Only You People Could Follow Directions: A Memoir
By Jessica Hendry Nelson

Are you a memoir junkie? Do you enjoy books in which the writer overcomes high levels of adversity? Do you enjoy reading about flawed and relatable people? If you answered yes to any of these questions than I would strongly recommend Jessica Hendry Nelson’s debut “If Only You People Could Follow Directions.”

Those aren’t the only things that make this such a great read. Addiction memoirs are popular with publishers these days. For every great addiction memoir like “Smashed” and “More, Now, Again” there are dozens that fall flat. What makes Nelson’s memoir stand out is her unique and engaging voice. She writes in a way that connects with the reader and makes it easy to empathize with her situation. This is also a great book for those that may not typically read non-fiction. Nelson’s writing style is such that it reads more like a novel and I found that I had to remind myself I was reading a piece of non-fiction.

Jessica, her brother Eric, and her mother Susan are the central figures of the book. Other people in her life drift in an out and impact her in different ways. The memoir follows Jessica as she grows up in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic and oftentimes absent father. Addiction, mental illness, codependency, and drifting apart as we grow up are themes that are touched on frequently. Her mother holds the family together but when Jessica goes off to college and her brother's choices lead to prison, she also starts to spiral into addiction. The book doesn't follow a typical chronological progression but is more of a collection of essays based on her experience and are neatly tied together. After reading the book it is clear that the title reflects on the feeling of powerlessness we sometimes have when it comes to stopping loved ones from making destructive choices. 

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

By Shawn Hoffman

I literally could not put this book down!

This book tells the story of Samson Abram, a Jewish man who was imprisoned in Auschwitz during World War II, who is forced to box every Saturday night for Nazi brass entertainment. If he wins, he receives extra food but if he loses then he is sent to the gas chambers. But Samson is a fighter. He was a 1936 Olympic boxer who was robbed of his medal because of his nationality.

This book tells of the cruelty of man in the horrors of the Holocaust while at the same time portraying the courage of man in struggling for honor and dignity in these circumstances. I was immediately drawn into Samson’s story as one act of kindness throws him and his family into the eye of the SS and gets them all shipped off to the concentration camp. I walked through the petrifying moments when they arrive at the camp and the days which followed as the rumors are all confirmed in their living nightmare. But then, as I read, hope began to grow like a lone yellow flower Samson found growing in the changing room outside the boxing ring. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough as I raced to keep up with this phenomenal story of one man who would just not give up in the face of unimaginable cruelty and brutality.

Everything in this book actually happened to real people during the Nazi invasion of Poland in the early 1940’s. As you read through it, there are side notes detailing the actual facts this story is based on. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
By Chip Heath & Dan Heath

Have you ever thought? “I would do that if I had any will power or could motivate myself.” I know I have. I know that I will start out strong on a project or a goal and then my motivation withers away as the days go by.

The Heath brothers tackle this problem in their book Switch: How to Change Things When Things Are Hard. In their research they discovered that there are two parts in a human mind. There is the rational mind and the emotional mind. The rational part is the leader but the emotional part is 3 times larger. How do you get the rational mind to guide to the emotional mind? How do you get the emotional mind to use its fierce instincts to light a fire under the rational mind? 

Self-control is an exhaustible source. Change is hard because people wear themselves out. When people attempt to change things, they are fixing habits that have become automatic and changing those behaviors will drain a person’s self-control. If you want to change things, you’ve got to appeal to both the rational mind and the emotional mind.

This idea not only applies to an individual but it applies to teams, organizations and businesses as well as countries. The book tells a story about the St. Lucia Parrot which only exists on the island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. This is a beautifully stunning bird with deep blue, lime green and red feathers. In 1977, there were only 100 of these birds still alive because of the desolation hunters and those who wanted them as pets. One biologist said they would be extinct by the year 2000. The country’s leaders had worked so hard trying to implement laws to punish such actions but nothing had worked up to this point. People simply didn’t care about the bird. Until a grad student, fresh out of a London university, had an idea. What about using patriotism and pride to motivate people? They started a campaign to make the public more familiar with the bird. They did puppet shows, made t-shirts, convinced a band to record a song about the parrot, got volunteers to go into the school dresses as the parrot and talk about the bird. They even did a card campaign comparing the parrot to the bald eagle with the slogan “Who has the better national bird?” By 2008, there were close to 700 St. Lucia Parrots on the island and there hadn’t been a report of a bird shooting for 15 years. By motivating the emotion side of the population with a rational idea, they were able to have widespread change where there was no movement before.

This book was ingenious, full of real stories and gave me many clever ideas to try in my own life to achieve change. If you want some tools in your toolbox for the next time you want to attempt change this is a perfect book for you. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Our New Blog

One of the best parts of being a librarian is having books at your fingertips every day. People ask us what we like to read, what we would recommend, what is the best book we have ever read. We wanted to start this blog to talk about some of those books. Some of the most victorious or heart-wrenching stories you will ever read have actually happened. 

Nonfiction is defined as "writing that is based on facts, real events and real people." As we read these books, we will share our thoughts and recommendations with you!