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Staff Picks: Mountaineering Books

Back in April I talked about caves and the reasons they fascinate me. Today I’d like to focus up in the sky and tell you about our mountaineering books. I don’t have any climbing experience myself. The tallest thing I’ve ever climbed has been Enchanted Rock.  I’ve gone up rock-climbing walls a couple of times: you know, the kind where gym staff attaches a rope to your harness and helps haul you up. I don’t actually want to go mountain climbing. I’ve gone on a couple of cave tours and wound up enjoying myself, but I don’t like heights.  I do love reading about it, though.

Mountaineering non-fiction reads like horror to me. The unpredictable landscape, the possibility of equipment failure, the potential for sabotage, and the knowledge that you’re too far away for help to arrive are all horrifying to think about. Add the possibility of falling a mile or more to your death and I have my scary book for the night.

Here are some of my favorite mountaineering books. There’s a range of non-fiction, including some focusing on the point of view of Sherpas and other native porters and guides; history; and adventure writing. There are also fiction and DVDs, if you’d rather watch than read. Check one out!


10/1/2014 by Allison Denny Add a Comment Share this:

Patron Review: My Mother Was Nuts

Gutsy, funny, loyal, talented, Penny Marshall tells her story. She lives a life much like a roller coaster: full of highs and lows. “Laverne and Shirley” launched her career and she continued to develop her craft to the point that she became a director, the first woman to make $100 million in profits!

Her story is full of famous celebrities that are well known personalities not only in the world of TV but on the silver screen, people we have heard about and followed most of our life. Penny was friendly and social and this propelled her work to new levels. She was especially loyal to her special circle of friends and family as she began her directorial debut, a success especially difficult for a woman at the time. This did not deter her attempt to approach the unknown.

Penny tells her story in a funny conversational format and as a reader I was drawn into her life. She never allowed the challenges faced through the ups and downs of life, be it a failed marriage, TV sitcom, or an unplanned child, derail her attempt to continue her career, reinvent her approach.

Penny was what her mother called an “unwanted” child. Her parents did not like one another but stayed together. In fact, at one point, her oldest brother, as he was leaving for college, told his sisters that they needed to support one another, that they had no parental guidance! All 3 of them overcame the odds and were successful in show business.

Guided by a great sense of humor, Penny Marshall’s story inspired me and I enjoyed reading about her out of the ordinary life///joyb
Written by Joy B., Lake Arlington patron

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9/29/2014 by Add a Comment Share this:

New Releases September 30-October 6

Journalist and TV writer Caroline Kepnes new book, You, has been called one of the creepiest and most terrifying thrillers of this fall.

9/28/2014 by Linda S Add a Comment Share this:

Senior to Senior: Finding Value in History and Those Who Lived It

Different generations share common experiences, like playing in their high school band. Did you play? Photograph of Frances Nadley Bondurant in Marching Band Uniform

Senior to Senior Program

Finding Value in History and Those Who Lived It

These words introduce the Senior to Senior program beginning this fall. The program pairs high school student groups with residents of assisted living facilities or senior centers to share experiences by playing games, singing, telling stories and reading together. This is made possible by a Texas Reads Grant from the Texas State Library & Archives Commission.

I enjoy elderly people. When I was growing up it was pretty much a prerequisite.  I had seven grandparents in varying degrees of greatness, a myriad of great uncles and aunts, and an abundance of aged neighbors. It was a comforting normalcy in my life. They were a source of discipline, a window to history and an example of how to deal with life in a positive manner. Certainly, there were the crabby individuals whom everyone skirted around and generally avoided, but even these folks taught a lesson, if nothing else, in how to deal with adversity. It was a different world when I was born. World War II had ended only seven years before, and the horrors and privations were still very real.  I was fortunate to grow up in a rural farming community-a German-American enclave in the northeast corner of Arkansas. My ancestors for the past 150 years were all buried in a little cemetery that belonged to the Lutheran church which my extended family attended. German was still spoken in church and many homes and my grandmother taught me the language when I was very young. For me, in this facet of time, life was safe and warm and nourishing.

The world is very different now. Things have changed significantly. Or have they? Certainly, technology and communications have increased exponentially. Our small communities have become part of a global entity. Diseases that decimated entire populations in the past have become controlled or eradicated. We can live longer, travel farther, and access information faster than any other period in the history of the world. But, basically, people remain the same. We generally have a sequence to our lives. We enter life as a newborn, become toddlers, start school, enter our teens as young adults and progress on as adults to middle age and our senior years that continue until we die. It is a process, a circadian rhythm, an evolution, that continuously shapes our individuality and determines who and what we are. It is a learning process—a teaching mechanism. It is a unique experience for every individual on the planet. Every person has a story to tell that reflects a life lived, a lesson learned, a slant on history in the making that is theirs alone. Let us ask questions, give insights, and, most of all, listen and learn.

9/24/2014 by Trish C. Add a Comment Share this:
Topics: Arlington, Seniors

Book Club Pick: Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis

Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis

I wrote about Flash Boys this summer as a great summer reading pick. There's no reason you can't pick it up now, though! Read on for a publisher summary of the book.

"Flash Boys is about a small group of Wall Street guys who figure out that the U.S. stock market has been rigged for the benefit of insiders and that, post–financial crisis, the markets have become not more free but less, and more controlled by the big Wall Street banks. Working at different firms, they come to this realization separately; but after they discover one another, the flash boys band together and set out to reform the financial markets. This they do by creating an exchange in which high-frequency trading—source of the most intractable problems—will have no advantage whatsoever.

The characters in Flash Boys are fabulous, each completely different from what you think of when you think “Wall Street guy.” Several have walked away from jobs in the financial sector that paid them millions of dollars a year. From their new vantage point they investigate the big banks, the world’s stock exchanges, and high-frequency trading firms as they have never been investigated, and expose the many strange new ways that Wall Street generates profits.

The light that Lewis shines into the darkest corners of the financial world may not be good for your blood pressure, because if you have any contact with the market, even a retirement account, this story is happening to you. But in the end, Flash Boys is an uplifting read. Here are people who have somehow preserved a moral sense in an environment where you don’t get paid for that; they have perceived an institutionalized injustice and are willing to go to war to fix it."

- (W.W. Norton)

If you read this book and want to talk about it, come to the next meeting of the Southwest Morning Reading Group! The group meets at 11 am on the second Wednesday of the month, in the Southwest Branch Community Room. The next meeting is October 8 at 11 am. Flash Boys is September’s book. Come discuss!

9/24/2014 by Allison Denny Add a Comment Share this:

Patron Review: The Storytellers by Jodi Picoult

Food is a centerpiece in this story, my mouth watering with the anticipation of homemade bread straight from the oven, the fragrance from the steam tantalizing the taste buds and then immediately, adding fresh butter, just melted, while sitting around a fireplace surrounded by the love of family! Using bread as an incentive or gift, the breadmaker, Sage, sprinkles goodwill throughout the book, keeping the salivary glands happy!

On the other hand, food is severely limited while imprisoned within the confines of Auschwitz, a frightening, deathtrap, prisoner-of-war camp during WWII. Watery broth with limited, if any vegetables, and bread, if lucky, the only sustenance to feed the women housed in the confines of the camp. Women were known to lick broth from the dirty floor, the mud of the grounds, all in the attempt to nourish themselves, to keep life flowing within their body. Dreams of food invaded their private moments while reality sucked away the very marrows of their being,

“Storyteller” is an apt title to this story as there are three stories contained within the pages: that of Josef as he relays his experience as an SS Commandant, that of Minka, Sage’s Grandmother, a former prisoner in Auschwitz, and the story that Minka wrote to read to the Commandant during her stay, thereby saving her life. Minka’s fictional allegory is one that can be likened to the brutality of the Third Reich and all they represent to the populace as they literally tear their people apart, destroy all that a body represents, all the while putting on a false front for the general welfare of the people!

This story is about forgiveness. Is it possible to forgive a former SS officer at Auschwitz, who had the power to dole out brutality at will, kill at his own whim of satisfaction, and exhibit no conscience while destroying human beings and their families? That is the question that faces Sage, who works nights to make the bread for a local bakery, using old family recipes to accomplish her purpose. She befriends a 95 year old man, Josef, who asks a special favor, one that will change her life, one that will make her question the morality of her life and that of her grandmother.

The author’s research is evident, making every effort to represent the times she writes about: the fear of the people, the lack of food, sanitation, and safety while housed in the Auschwitz camp, and the very real possibility of death should a prisoner stray from the rules.

Sage, her main character, is well developed, reflecting a sad, depressed, grieving young woman who hides her scarred face from the world by working nights. It is fun to see her grow with social contact, love, and purpose, as she attempts to make life-changing decisions.

This is a difficult novel to read because there are many convoluted stories all within one novel. That said, the story does tend to develop to the point that the reader is drawn into the meaning, the people involved, and the need to know how the story is resolved, thus leaving behind a surprise ending, one not expected!

The subject matter of the holocaust is always a tough one for me to digest because of the extreme brutality of one human being to another. I had the feeling that the author was trying to make a point that human genocide, whether it be Germany or Africa or Syria, is never acceptable. For that reason, if nothing else, she lets the reader know that it is important to be aware of the horrors of this type of warfare and be sensitive to all it means to mankind.

Written by Joy B., Lake Arlington patron

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9/24/2014 by Add a Comment Share this:

September's Books to Movies

Here are the books being adapted into movies this September! They all came out on September 19. Check one out before or after you go to the theater to see how they compare! Below are publisher summaries for the books. Click on the cover pictures to find a copy in branch near you or to place one on hold.

A Walk Among the Tombstones, by Lawrence Block

In theaters September 19

“One million dollars cash, or we kill your wife." High-volume dope dealers make an easy mark for kidnappers. After all, what are they going to do, call the cops? But Kenan Khoury, heroin wholesaler to the five boroughs, haggled over the price, and his wife came back in pieces. The only person he can trust to avenge her is Matt Scudder, ex-cop, sober alcoholic, who wields his own brand of guerrilla justice. Scudder enlists his call-girl girlfriend Elaine, a streetwise punk from Times Square, and two phone-phreak computer geniuses to track the killers through the backstreets of Brooklyn. But the killers' depravity is matched only by their cleverness, and their next target is a little girl. In one of Block's most electrifying denouements, Scudder turns a cold trail into a red-hot explosion one rainy night in a Brooklyn cemetery. Crackling with the city's energy, A Walk Among the Tombstones weds the breakneck suspense of A Ticket to the Boneyard to the relentless moral vision of A Dance at the Slaughterhouse. It is Lawrence Block's finest, most deeply satisfying novel, and a virtuoso performance.” (by Lawrence Block)

Lawrence Block has been writing his Matt Scudder series since the 1970s! If you’re looking for your next thriller to read, this one can keep you busy for a while.

This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathon Tropper

In theaters September 19

“The death of Judd Foxman’s father marks the first time that the entire Foxman family—including Judd’s mother, brothers, and sister—have been together in years. Conspicuously absent: Judd’s wife, Jen, whose fourteen-month affair with Judd’s radio-shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public.

Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the demise of his marriage, Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch’s dying request: to spend the seven days following the funeral together. In the same house. Like a family.

As the week quickly spins out of control, longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed, and old passions reawakened. For Judd, it’s a weeklong attempt to make sense of the mess his life has become while trying in vain not to get sucked into the regressive battles of his madly dysfunctional family. All of which would be hard enough without the bomb Jen dropped the day Judd’s father died: She’s pregnant.

This Is Where I Leave You is Jonathan Tropper's most accomplished work to date, a riotously funny, emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind—whether we like it or not.” (by Penguin Putman)

Hector and the Search for Happiness, by François Lelord

In theaters September 19

“Once upon a time there was a young psychiatrist called Hector who was not very satisfied with himself. . . . And so he decided to take a trip around the world, and everywhere he went he would try to understand what made people happy or unhappy.

Hector travels from Paris to China to Africa to the United States, and along the way he keeps a list of observations about the people he meets. Combining the winsome appeal of The Little Prince with the inspiring philosophy of The Alchemist, Hector’s journey around the world and into the human soul is entertaining, empowering, and smile-inducing. As winning in its optimism as it is wise in its simplicity.” (by Penguin Putnam)

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9/22/2014 by Allison Denny Add a Comment Share this:

New Releases September 23-29

General George S. Patton is the subject of Bill O'Reilly's new book Killing Patton, out this week.

9/21/2014 by Linda S Add a Comment Share this:

Patron Review: Astronaut Wives Club

Our space program was launched in the late 1950’s, 1960’s, and was finally closed  due to financial reality by President Nixon in 1972.  The launches were known as the Mercury program, Gemini program, and finally, the Apollo program, NASA choosing the best candidates who were physically and mentally fit to master all that was expected of them!   After all, America’s program was on a race to beat the Soviets to the moon.

The women of these amazing men were the true unsung heroes as they stood by while their men endured week after week of back breaking training with long periods of absences from home.  Their spouses were exposed to the endless notoriety of the press, strict dress and hospitality protocol, all outlined and expected by NASA.  After all, they represented their husband when he was away or on assignment.

Right away, “Life” magazine, along with their own personal photographers, paid the astronaut families for the exclusive right to monitor, interview, and photograph at will these women.  The wives were treated like royalty as they purchased becoming clothes that flattered their virtues.  But, in return, the wives were expected to be the perfect wife, cook, mother, and be gorgeous while they took on this role!!  Their marriage was expected to be perfect, a reflection of Mrs. America, apron on her person, fresh baked cookies in the oven!!

The trouble is that life is not perfect!  The women were treated like robots rather than real people with feelings, emotions, and fears, ever present, for the danger that their spouses experienced while on flight.  They experienced overwhelming loneliness at times and also knew what it was like, in some cases, to realize that their spouses were seeking comfort from unknown women while away!!  As America celebrated the Space Age, this story depicts the true facts, under the glamour, the real world: positive as well as negative.

This is a fun read, a life of Camelot behind the scenes, the real scoop of what the wives faced: their tight-knit relationships, their true hardships, as well as the highlights of what it is to be an international celebrity.  For many of the early astronauts’ wives, the true climax of their life was to have lunch with Jackie Kennedy in the White House!  This story is a true-to-life fairytale sprinkled with a few showers, bolts of lightning at times, and a rainbow, too!!  Enjoy!

Written by Joy B., Lake Arlington patron

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9/19/2014 by Add a Comment Share this:

Staff Pick: My Real Children, by Jo Walton

My Real Children, by Jo Walton

It’s 2015 and like her mother before her, Patricia has developed dementia as she grew older. She lives in a nursing home. She can’t remember exactly how long she’s been there. The details of the building seem to change around her. Is there an elevator, or not? She recognizes one of the paintings on the wall, but some days she can find it and some days it is gone. She has a hard time keeping track of the staff, whose shifts never seem to rotate with any regularity. Her caretakers mark her state of mind every day on a sign at the foot of her bed. They discourage her from looking at it, but when she can steal a glimpse, often it says “very confused.”

Patricia knows she’s confused. She remembers the recent past well enough to know she’s been forgetful for a long time. The memories she can recall don’t make any sense. Patricia remembers two distinct, very different, lives.

As often happens with dementia patients, her childhood and early adulthood are clear. Patricia can remember summer trips to the beach, being evacuated to the countryside in World War II Britain, studying at Oxford, and agreeing to marry Mark. Things split based on whether she follows through with the engagement. In one version of her life, she does marry Mark. He’s abusive and distant. Tricia lives the isolated struggle of a young housewife before becoming politically active. In another life, Pat does not marry Mark. Instead she becomes a successful travel writer whose family splits their time between England and Italy.    

Walton is looking at the impact a single choice can have in a person’s life. Patricia’s choice about who to marry will have a deep personal impact. I liked seeing the differences in the world around Patricia as well. Tricia lived in a much more peaceful, scientific world than Pat did. Was this based on her decision with Mark, or were there other factors involved?

What interested me the most was wondering why Patricia remembered both versions of her life as she approached the end. Which one was real? That uncertainty drew me into Patricia’s frame of mind. If I couldn’t figure out what had happened and what had not, how was Patricia with her slipping memory going to manage?

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9/17/2014 by Allison Denny Add a Comment Share this: