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What We’re Reading

The Buddha in the Attic – It’s What We’re Reading

 
February  
2013

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

A Buddha in the Attic The Buddha in the Attic
by Julie Otsuka

Julie Otsuka gives us a gift in this small, but very special novel.  Her short lines of prose are more like poetry, and when all of these short lines are taken together, they produce clear, vital, and beautiful images.  The novel presents the story of ‘Japanese picture brides’, who leave Japan and the harsh circumstances under which they live, to come to America in search of a better life.  It is the American story — but decades later it turns into a nightmare after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

These women, most of whom have tried so hard to assimilate into the American culture, suddenly live in fear as they hear of stories of deportation to Japanese internment camps. Julie Otsuka based some of her writing on historical narratives, and she divides the book into eight sections to show the struggle and triumph of these remarkable women, challenged in every conceivable way.  The book and their story is heartbreaking, uplifting, and unforgettable.

The Buddha in the Attic was the 2013 One Book One Philadelphia selection.

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

Death Comes to Pemberley – It’s What We’re Reading


January
2013

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

Remainder
Death Comes to Pemberley
By P.D. James

P.D. James is well known for her crime fiction (“Original Sin”, “An Unsuitable Job for a Woman”) so it should come as no surprise that she should bring murder to the idyllic home of Pemberley. For Austen fans, Pemberley is familiar as the estate of Fitzwilliam Darcy, one of the main characters of Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice”. “Death at Pemberley” picks up the story a few years after Darcy and heroine Elizabeth Bennet marry. The couple is happily living with their children on the Pemberley estate, hosting an annual ball and remaining respectable members of the community.

“Pride and Prejudice” did have its morally questionable characters and they become the focus of the murder investigation in “Death at Pemberley.” The incorrigible George Wickham and his wife Lydia Bennet are en route to Pemberley with their friend, Captain Denny. Wickham and Denny have a disagreement, causing Denny to jump from the carriage into the woods. Wickham is found later sobbing over the deceased Captain Denny, with Darcy, Elizabeth and the community wondering exactly what happened. Despite Darcy’s previous experiences with Wickham, he cannot believe Wickham is guilty of such a crime.

Throughout the book, P.D. James keeps the writing in a sort of Austean prose, highlighting the social etiquette of the time. James also finds a way to weave in other Austen books, noting the current state of characters from “Persuasion” and “Emma.” “Death Comes to Pemberley” reflects an author’s love of Jane Austen’s writing, integrated with James’ own expertise in crime fiction.

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

 

Remainder – It's What We're Reading


December
2012

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

Remainder
Remainder
Tom McCarthy

To my mind, Remainder is a mystery.  From the start, the narrator /main character is recovering from a mysterious accident involving trauma to the head.  He receives a huge monetary settlement because of the accident, and how he proceeds to spend his fortune is the crux of the story.  Day by day, we follow him through a series of events that leaves us with the overriding question, WHY?  His obsessive quest to seek order in an unorderly world is both fascinating and disturbing.  If you are looking for something a bit away from the formulaic novel, this book is for you.

This book can be found in the Audio Book collection on the first floor of the Library.

Just My Type: A Book about Fonts – It's What We're Reading


November
2012

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

Just My TypeJust My Type: A Book about Fonts
Simon Garfield

We are surrounded by fonts but, until recently, people outside the design community gave them little thought. Personal computers brought the word “font” into everyday use, along with a myriad of font choices available to the layperson within popular software programs. With the advent of desktop publishing came an explosion of do-it-yourself fliers, posters, invitations, zines and books, many of dubious aesthetic quality. Garfield strives to make us more aware of the consequences of font choice (our own and others’) by considering the balance of beauty and readability and what makes “good” and “bad” fonts for different purposes.  He delves into the of rich history of type and font design, acquainting us with fascinating type designers along the way. Who knew that some of those familiar names on our font dropdown menus, such as Gill, Garamond, Baskerville, and Bodoni, were real people? Garfield is a wonderful storyteller, breathing life into arcane details. Consider the struggles of the man who tried to go through an entire day avoiding the ubiquitious Helvetica font. Or try your hand at spotting anachronistic fonts in movies set in the past. The book itself is masterfully designed, of course, with numerous typeface illustrations. Brief “Fontbreaks” between chapters focus on the curious history of particular fonts, including a sample paragraph in the type under discussion. Because of the importance of the illustrative matter to this topic, I would suggest you seek out the print version of this title rather than the audiobook.

This book can be found in the Audio Book collection  on the first floor of the Library.

The World of Downton Abbey – It's What We're Reading


October 
2012

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

The World of Downtown Abbey
The World of Downton Abbey
Jessica Fellows

American television audiences have been captivated for the past two seasons by the upstairs and downstairs lives portrayed in the fictional Downton Abbey <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/downtonabbey/>on PBS’ Masterpiece <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/index.html>. Unfortunately, the end of each series has left us wanting to know more about our favorite characters, the actors involved and British Society during the early 20th Century. Well, Jessica Fellowes, the niece of the Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes (Screenwriting Oscar for Gosford Park), has come to our rescue with her companion title. It is well researched, written and illustrated with photographs from throughout the series production. Some of the interesting topics that she covers include: family, society, style, life in service and the estate house. There is even a behind the scenes look at the program. Reading this book is an enjoyable way to prepare for the continuation of the drama’s next chapter in 2013.
Highclere Castle <http://www.highclerecastle.co.uk/> is used for the filming of the fictional Downton Abbey.

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

Sunset Park - It's What We're Reading

September 2012

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

Sunset Part

Sunset Park
Paul Auster
In the first dark months after the 2008 economic collapse, Miles Heller moves to Sunset Park, Brooklyn after his marriage collapses because of his own infidelity and inattention. The cast of characters he finds there are all of the ghosts of contemporary America, young squatters in an apartment building, a young “trash-out” worker photographing abandoned objects left behind by evicted families, an independent book publisher trying to save his business and his marriage, an older actress trying to return to Broadway. Paul Auster always offers characters that pull on your heart, and this one is no exception.

The Sisters Brothers – It's What We're Reading


August 2012

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

The Sisters Brothers
The Sisters Brothers
Patrick deWitt

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt may be set during the Gold-Rush era, but it’s not your run-of-the-mill Western. Charlie and Eli Sisters, the brothers of the title, have been hired guns long enough to have gained fierce reputations. But Eli, the more sensitive and introspective of the two, is ready to quit the outlaw life and settle down. His brother Charlie, however, is not quite as keen on the quiet life. On what would seem to be their final job, the brothers encounter adventure and misadventure, and the journey is even more pleasurable than the destination. Darkly comic and witty, this book reads like a Coen brothers film and gallops along faster than the Pony Express. It’s full of quirky characters and sharp dialogue.

You can find The Sisters Brothers in the Popular Reading Collection on the first floor of the Library.

 

Loving Frank – It's What We're Reading

July 2012

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

Loving Frank
Loving Frank
Nancy Horan

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan is a fictionalized version of the true story of Mamah Borthwick Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s a fascinating look into the life and idiosyncratic personality of one of America’s most famous architects, credited with fathering the Prairie School movement, and his scandalous affair with Mamah, a creative intellectual woman fettered by the conventions of her time. Both married when they met, their relationship damned them in the eyes of their world with Mamah suffering the brunt of the notoriety while at the same time gaining some new intellectual freedom. Just as the publicity maelstrom abated and they begin to achieve some acceptance as a couple, tragedy struck and the book’s ending is shocking for those not familiar with their true history. Mamah and Frank are conflicted people who provoke conflicting emotions in readers.

This book is on order and will soon be available in the Popular Reading Collection on the first floor of the Drexel Library.

The Book Thief – It's What We're Reading

May 2012

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

The Book Thief
The Book Thief
Markus Zusak

Taking place in Nazi Germany, Death tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a nine year old girl sent to live with a foster family in a town outside of Munich. On the way to her new home, she encounters two things which change her life forever. The first is Death when he comes to claim her younger brother and becomes the first of many encounters throughout Liesel’s life. The second is a book accidentally dropped by one of the gravediggers. Liesel keeps the book even though she cannot read, but sensing that it is somehow important. Her accordion playing foster father teaches her to read and Liesel becomes an avid reader, stealing books at every opportunity. Liesel’s childhood begins happily, but then the war begins to encroach and she is witness to all its horrors, the bombings, the treatment of the Jews, the burning of books. Her foster family hides a Jewish man in the basement which frightens Liesel at first, but she soon learns that they share much in common, especially their love of words.
The Book Thief is filled with wonderful characters and relationships. Even Death is an interesting character and it is through his eyes that we see all the death and destruction going on. It is through Liesel’s eyes that we see the strength of the human spirit. Although it is described as a young adult story, it’s a powerful story full of love, joy, death, and sadness and well worth reading.

This novel can be found in the CMC on the 2nd floor of the Library.

Caleb's Crossing – It's What We're Reading

May 2012

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

Caleb's Crossing
Caleb’s Crossing
Geraldine Brooks

When Geraldine Brooks first moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 2006, she discovered a map of the early native Wampanoag people who inhabited the island before the white settlers came. The map marked the birthplace of Caleb, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College in 1665. Brooks was fascinated by the idea of a young native succeeding in this early bastion of puritanical elitism. She immersed herself in the minimal records of Caleb’s tribe and those of white families who settled on the island in the 1640’s. Brooks created her story, Caleb’s Crossing, in the voice of the brilliant young daughter of the island’s Calvinist minister, Bethia Mayfield. Bethia hungers for knowledge and education but has to stifle her dreams while her dull brothers are carefully prepared for study at Harvard. She meets Caleb at age 12 and their mutual affinity for nature and knowledge creates a lifelong bond.
Brooks creates a fascinating look at early academia, the stifled lives of young women and the crush of civilization on Native American lives. As in her other fiction, Geraldine Brooks takes on big ideas and couches them in rich historical detail. A good read.

This novel can be found in the Popular Reading collection on the first floor of the Library.