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What We’re Reading

The Devil in the White City – It’s What We’re Reading

September 2014 A monthly offering from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read.

Cooked The Devil in the White City: murder, magic, and madness at the fair that changed America
Erik Larson

Two men were drawn to Chicago in the early 1890’s for the same reason—the World’s Columbian Exposition, better known as the World’s Fair. One man was the brilliant architect, Daniel Burnham, charged with building the White City, and the other Dr. H. H. Holmes, a vicious serial killer, preying on the single women who were flocking to the city for the myriad jobs that arose from this huge undertaking. While the buildings grew on the fairgrounds, women were disappearing only blocks away.

Erik Larson weaves together the two stories to create a tale of intrigue, magic, and mayhem. Only this is not a work of fiction, but of fact, which makes the book that much more chilling. The White City was an overwhelming success and an international sensation. However, in its shadow a predator lured his victims to his den of torture and death.

This book is available in the Library on the second floor. Call number is HV6248.M8 L37 2003.

Cooked – It’s What We’re Reading

August 2014 A monthly offering from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read.

Cooked Cooked
Michael Pollan

Pollan explores the basics of cooking at its most ‘elemental. He learns how to make traditional barbecue (fire), make stocks and braise meat (water), bake bread (air), and ferment beer and sauerkraut (earth). His descriptions about the processes make you want to join in, which is facilitated by the inclusion of recipes in the back of the book. Building on his previous claims to “shop the perimeter of the grocery store” and “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”, Pollan strips cooking down to the basics. It is a great read and keeps you entertained. The author’s regression to the basics is inspired by our culture’s most recent aversion to cooking from scratch. It is Pollan’s goal to encourage people to enjoy cooking and sharing a meal, thereby improving our daily lives.

This book can be found on the 1st floor, in the compact shelving.
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Dangerous Women – It’s What We’re Reading

2014 A monthly offering from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read.

11/23/63 Dangerous Women
George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

There is something for everyone in Dangerous Women, an anthology of 21 short stories each centered on one or more strong female characters. Many of the stories are science fiction or fantasy tales, as one would expect with George R.R. Martin as one of the editors. Well known authors penned many of the stories, and several are set in worlds that their authors created and developed in other books, including a story that is set in the world of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and one set in George R.R. Martin’s Westeros before the events in the Game of Thrones books take place. With the fantasy and science fiction genres so often filled with male characters, it was especially fun to see depictions of so many strong women. Reading the stories included in Dangerous Women was a good way to find new-to-me authors whose books I am now looking forward to reading.

The book can be found on the First Floor in the Popular Reading section.

Longbourn – It’s What We’re Reading

2014 A monthly offering from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read.

11/23/63 Longbourn
Jo Baker

If you are lover of Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey, you cannot miss the novel, Longbourn by Jo Baker. The novel is the imagined day-to-day lives of the servants working for the Bennet family downstairs on the ground floor of Longbourn. Mrs. Hill has her hands full managing the staff of four that keeps the Bennet family well fed, in clean and mended clothes, and always with a cup of tea at hand. Mrs. Hill is joined by her husband, Mr. Hill, the butler, two orphan housemaids, Sarah and Polly, and a mysterious footman, James. At the heart of the novel is a budding romance between the orphan-turned-housemaid Sarah and James who seems to have a complicated past and strange connection to the Longbourn house.

The representation of the Bennet family is as you might expect, Jane is quiet and lovely, Elizabeth outspoken and smart, Lydia silly and loud, and Mrs. Bennet as the social climber and a bundle of nerves. Mr. Wickham seems a bit more wicked, and Mr. Collins is a little more sympathetic, although excruciatingly unappealing. The story is light, but it is always fun to see the Bennet family from another perspective.

The book can be found on the First Floor in the Popular Reading section.

The Monuments Men : Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History – It’s What We’re Reading

2014 A monthly offering from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read.

11/23/63 The Monuments Men : Allied heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter

As WWII was winding down on the European continent, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) section of western Allied forces, otherwise known as “the Monuments Men”. Under the command of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, a band of men and women, including some 200 Americans, was assigned to the task. Almost exclusively given the rank of officers, the mission of the Monuments Men was to protect and triage, where possible, the treasured art and architecture of France and Germany*.

Most held positions at esteemed museums in North America and all were recognized as knowledgeable persons in their respective fields, whether it be sculpting, architecture, restoration, etc. Each was assigned to a unit and often arrived on the scene right as a battle ended, sometimes even as artillery was still hot and smoking. Sometimes the Monuments Men arrived just as a valued structure had been reduced to rubble.

The author describes specific precious items stolen by the Nazis from their fellow Germans. Most of these thefts were from wealthy Jews, whose possessions often ended up warehoused in creative hiding places. The tale includes little biographical sketches of the main players on both sides, along with descriptive information of the numerous civilians who assisted in this great work. Not to minimize the large-scale loss of human life in this war, the author presents a most engaging and poignant read of the large scale stealing and destruction of this war and the humble heroics performed to save what was considered culturally important to Western Civilization. For anyone who has an appreciation of art and architecture, or has visited Europe, this book is a must-read!

*The author tackles a similar Monuments Men project in Italy in a separate book.

Currently, this book is on the Post Commons new book shelves (1st fl.) and also as an audiobook. (Drexel, 1st fl.)

Old Mars – It’s What We’re Reading

2014 A monthly offering from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read.

11/23/63 Old Mars
George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois, Michael Moorcock and Joe R. Lansdale, editors

In the tradition of Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, Old Mars conjurers up the old-style adventure storytelling of going to and discovering the mysteries of Mars. The book is an anthology of stories about Mars, Martians, and the Human equation. Old Mars is reminiscent of The Martian Chronicles and is a tip of the hat to the preceding ages of literary science fiction.

Each story, told with a contemporary twist, adheres to the mystery and wonder that inspired the early authors to write about the red planet. Many of these new stories pay homage to their predecessors, respecting the mythos while simultaneously acknowledging our current understanding of the planet based on our state-of-the-art scientific study of Mars today.

Old Mars prompts its readers to consider just how much of what we know about the planet today will change in the years to come as we learn more about it. The stories in Old Mars are a combination of enjoyable, old-fashioned science fiction fantasy tempered with a contemporary mindset. Readers can immerse themselves in a world of infinite probabilities and improbabilities all the while asking the tantalizing question of: what if?

This book can be found on the First Floor of the Library in the Popular Reading section.

Innocence: a novel – It’s What We’re Reading

2014 A monthly offering from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read.

11/23/63 Innocence: a novel
Dean Kootnz

Innocence is a supernatural thriller that will have you guessing through to the end.

From birth, Addison Goodheart’s mere appearance is enough for people to fear and despise him just by looking at him. Just the sight of his face brings death to his door and compels anyone who sees him to want to kill him. Banished by his mother at age eight, Addison Goodheart finds his way to the big city where he lives out his days beneath it hiding out in the dark tunnels and taking refuge in the central library at night, finding solace amongst its rich collection of books.

There he meets Gwyneth, a mysterious young woman with a dubious history on the run from someone who wants her and everyone she cares for dead. Together they forge a union that goes beyond friendship. They must find a way to survive and stay ahead of those who would do them harm. Their union runs deeper than the tragedies that have scarred their lives in a world where the hour of reckoning is nearly upon them all.

This book can be found on the First Floor of the Library in the Popular Reading section.

TransAtlantic: a novel – It’s What We’re Reading

2014 A monthly offering from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read.

11/23/63 TransAtlantic
Colum McCann

Colum McCann’s latest novel, TransAtlantic is an homage to the deep ties between Ireland and America over time and space. He recounts three crossings; aviators Alcock and Brown flying across the ocean in 1919, Frederick Douglass traveling to Ireland to raise money for the abolitionist movement in 1863, and George Mitchell’s diplomatic trip in 1998 to mediate a peace accord in Northern Ireland. McCann connects these events through the life and legacy of Lily Duggan, a young Irish servant who is empowered to travel to America to a better life for her children. A beautifully poetic novel.

This book can be found on the First Floor of the Library in the Popular Reading section.

Tolkien's Modern Middle Ages – It's What We're Reading

2013 A monthly offering from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read.

11/23/63 Tolkien’s Modern Middle Ages
Jane Chance and Alfred K. Siewers, eds.

This December brings the second installment of The Hobbit to theaters. It is timely to look at the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Most scholarship focuses on the internal aspects of Tolkien mythology and his fictional world. Tolkien’s Modern Middle Ages, however, directs its focus to Tolkien’s often overlooked scholarly works and interests. Though he laid the foundations for Middle Earth in the trenches during the First World War, he continued this side interest while a professor of Old English, Middle English, and philology, where he brought forth lasting translations and studies of core literary and historical works. The essays in Tolkien’s Modern Middle Ages look to Tolkien’s fascination with the medieval world, its languages and peoples, and his inclusion of motifs, language, imagery, and cultural values of this period in his literary works.

These studies cover a wide array of topics and questions. Some look to whether Tolkien really continued the tradition of previous and contemporary authors and artists, including Tennyson and Wagner, in utilizing medieval motifs and themes. Some assess the desire of Tolkien to create his own world that opposed the modern by setting it in opposition to the far distant medieval past; the industrial and mechanical world of Mordor and the Orcs threatens the medieval landscape and culture of the Elves and Hobbits. These scholars expand this inquiry to assess Tolkien’s views of ecology and environmentalism that are potentially displayed in the same medieval versus modern debate; the Ents and Elves protect the forests and natural world while the Orcs tear them down to fuel industry for military expansion.

Did Tolkien simply extend upon Victorian era medieval literary and artistic works? Did he create a new appreciation for medieval cultures through violent comparison with the modern world? Did he seek to wage a larger philosophical battle between the two worlds in an attempt to idealize the medieval, or perhaps simply from nostalgic longing? On the other hand, is Tolkien best read as a spearhead in the development of modern fantasy and science fiction?

This work is interesting reading for anyone interested in Tolkien’s works, medievalists looking to assess the treatment of the past by modern literary works and popular culture, and for those curious about the placement of Middle Earth in the development of the fantasy and science fiction genres.

This book can be found on the Second Floor of the Library. The call number is: PR6039.O32 Z6224 2009.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – It's What We're Reading

2013 A monthly offering from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read.

11/23/63 The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman’s first novel for adults in eight years. It’s short, at 182 pages, and difficult to put down. It reads like a short story and left me wanting to spend more time in Gaiman’s mythological and nightmarish world.

Our narrator is an unnamed and friendless 7 year-old boy who prefers reading to people. He plays with his kitten, ignores an annoying younger sister, and immerses himself in adventures that pull him into the pages of his beloved books. This boy is frightened of almost everything, especially adults, with their changing moods and the masks he believes they peel away to reveal their darkest sides. A series of events upend his safe, quiet world and the boy finds himself with his first friend and protector, eleven year-old Lettie Hempstock,a girl who may be as old as time. The boy’s curiosity and disobedience result in the unleashing of a monster bent on controlling and destroying his family.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a story about the vulnerability and defenselessness of children. Beautifully written, Gaiman draws you into a world of memory, mystery and magic.

This book can be found in the Popular Reading Collection on the first floor of the Library.