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The Museum of Extraordinary Things – It’s What We’re Reading


January 2015 A monthly offering from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things The Museum of Extraordinary Things
Alice Hoffman

The Museum of Extraordinary Things is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction that is so touchingly human, yet surreal and at times even magical. These unreal moments exists side by side with those of searing reality as we are drawn into the daily struggle of immigrants trying to make their way in a new land. Descriptions of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire along with the fire that destroyed Dreamland in Coney Island complete the picture by setting the time and place of this tale in the early 20th century in the very unstable New York City.

Coralie, promoted as a Mermaid in the “museum” and Eddie, a photographer whom she has loved from a distance, exist on the fringes of society, along with the many odd creatures featured in the museum. Through Hoffman’s storytelling, instead of shock and horror, we find ourselves sympathetic towards these malformed creatures flaunted in the “museum” and manipulated by the malicious “Professor,” Coralie’s father.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things is located in our Popular Reading: Fiction section on the 1st Floor of the Post Learning Commons.

Season’s Readings 2014

The 2014 edition of the Francis A. Drexel Library’s popular Season’s Readings is now available.

This year’s list is full of interesting books as exciting as previous years, with something for everyone.

Peruse the list and get that special someone a great holiday gift, find something for yourself, or simply give the list itself as a gift.

Seasons Readings 2014


Last year’s: 2013

For access to previous Season’s Readings lists, click here.

Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues – It’s What We’re Reading


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

Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues
Martin J. Blaser

We may not think about it often, but we share our bodies with trillions of bacteria which have evolved together with us in a usually beneficial symbiosis. Widespread use of antibiotics in humans and animals is having unintended consequences because they kill microbes indiscriminately: good as well as bad. This book goes far beyond the well-known phenomenon of antibiotic-resistant germs.

Dr. Blaser, an infectious disease expert at NYU, explains the link between antibiotics and the increased prevalence during the 20th century of a host of chronic health problems: asthma, allergies, obesity, GERD, Chron’s disease, gluten intolerance and, possibly, autism. Antibiotics, especially those given in early childhood, impede the natural development of a healthy bacterial environment in the digestive system. Delivery by C-section, now at a whopping 1/3 of all U.S. births, also interferes with the immune system because the baby misses picking up important microbes residing in the mother’s birth canal. Recommendations include minimizing antibiotic use to truly necessary cases, using targeted rather than wide spectrum drugs, and avoiding optional caesarean births. Blaser is hopeful that further research will lead to the development of therapies to reintroduce specific healthy bacteria into our digestive systems when a course of live-saving antibiotics is unavoidable.

Missing Microbes can be found in the Popular Reading: Nonfiction section on the first floor of Post Learning Commons.

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 : a novel – It’s What We’re Reading


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

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 : a novel Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 : a novel
Francine Prose

Francine Prose’s Lovers at the Chameleon Club describes the creative, lively, and dangerous world of Paris in the 30’s. The story is told from different accounts, from the brash male american novelist to the present day amateur researcher who is exploring the idea of evil and its many forms. Prose based the story on an actual photograph, “Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle, 1932” by Brassai, in which the cross dressing lesbian Violette Morris is sitting with her lover. Morris was the inspiration for the character Lou Villars, who is also an auto racer and failed Olympic hopeful. Like Morris, Villars’ character is banned from auto racing from the French and in anger betrays her country by working for the Gestapo during World War II.

The book is not simply a look at Villars’ life but also a look at how history is perceived and remembered through different voices. One source is from a photographer of the time, who tells his story through his letters home to his family in Hungary. Other versions are through memoirs, like the arts patron and Resistance member Baroness Lily de Rossignol who is looking back to a time in which Paris changed greatly from 1932 – 1944. Then there is the amateur historian, Nathalie Dunois, who seems to be writing the history to suit her own theories. Taken altogether, Lovers at the Chameleon Club presents not only a snapshot of that time in Paris but a look at how the time was remembered by those who experienced it.

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 : a novel is located in the Popular reading: nonfiction section on the first floor of the Post Learning Commons.

Detroit: An American Autopsy – It’s What We’re Reading


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

Detroit: An American Autopsy Detroit: An American Autopsy
Charlie LeDuff

Charlie LeDuff, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, was born and raised in the once-proud city of Detroit – a city once in the vanguard, now a place of rust, decay, and desolation returning to its wild roots. But it seems there is something about the dying city that tugs at the author’s heartstrings and begs for him to share its voice with the rest of us.

So he moves back to Detroit — actually only to the edge of it — and shares with us some of his experiences along the way. We hear about the plight of a group of firefighters in a city that lacks basic resources. We laugh with them, we cry with them. We feel a bit of their pain. Sometimes it gets deeply personal as we hear about his childhood and his extended family members, some who were lost to the city.

According to LeDuff, where Detroit goes, so goes America. If this is true, we may all want to pay more attention. This book is available in the Post Learning Commons Popular Reading (1st floor).

Note: Charlie is interviewed on location in Detroit in CNN’s Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown: Detroit.

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.
Never used compact shelving before? See our help video.

Dangerous Women – It’s What We’re Reading


July
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


June
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


May
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.)