All posts by Michael Brooks

Strangers in their own land : anger and mourning on the American right – It’s What We’re Reading


January 2017

“What We’re Reading” is a feature offering periodic reviews from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read. If you find a book which interests you and it is not in our collection, please feel free to acquire the book through our Interlibrary Loan service.

Strangers in their own land : anger and mourning on the American right

Strangers in their own land : anger and mourning on the American right

Arlie Russell Hochschild.

This month we are highlighting the selection for the SJU Book Club. The club welcomes all members of the SJU community—students, faculty and staff—to participate. The Book Club is a faculty-staff collaborative effort to engage the community in reading and discussing books which explore our social consciousness and personal identity.

The first meeting will take place during free period (11am-12:15 pm) on Tuesday, January 31, 2017, in the Presidents’ Lounge in Campion.

In “Strangers in Their Own Land” Sociologist and UC–Berkeley professor emerita Arlie Russel Hochschild explores parts of the United States that are considered centers of the conservative right. The author interviews a variety of residents of Louisiana such as mayors, salesmen, pastors, truck drivers, plant operators, and many others. She is looking to solve what she describes as the Great Paradox: How can a state that has lower life-expectancy, more divorce, lower school enrollment, environmental pollution, (namely those that could benefit from federal aid) dislike government assistance and regulation?

Hochschild delves into this question by crossing what she calls the “empathy wall.” The author is interested in finding out not only why people have certain beliefs but also listening to the anger and frustration of those who believe they have been forgotten. Hochschild’s results of this five-year study are illuminating in the effort to understand America’s political divide.

Strangers in their own land : anger and mourning on the American right is available at the Front Desk in the Drexel Library as well as electronically.

Amazing Fantastic Incredible : a marvelous memoir – It’s What We’re Reading


December 2016

“What We’re Reading” is a feature offering periodic reviews from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read. If you find a book which interests you and it is not in our collection, please feel free to acquire the book through our Interlibrary Loan service.

Amazing fantastic incredible : a marvelous memoir

Amazing fantastic incredible : a marvelous memoir

Stan Lee and Peter David and Colleen Doran.

Amazing fantastic incredible : a marvelous memoir is a fun read for fans of Stan Lee, superheroes, comic books, or graphic novels. This autobiographical work is told and illustrated in the manner befitting an icon like Stan Lee. Born of humble beginnings, Stan Lee begins by describing his early life and progresses through to current day.

The illustrations are done in the style associated with superhero comics with occasional panels that pay homage to their anime cousin.

Not only does Stan Lee describe his life, but he discusses the ups and downs of the early days of the comic book publishing industry. Stan Lee began his career at a time when comics were still viewed as reading material for children. He talks about how the industry was nearly eradicated in the early days of the Senator Joseph McCarthy era to the industry developing its own standards of self-regulation to finally discovering a niche that did not cater exclusively to children but to adult readers who gravitated to the more mature storylines of their favorite superheroes.

Stan Lee created some of the most iconic heroes like the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, and Captain America. And like those heroes, has become an icon in his own right. In addition to talking about his life and the evolution of the comic book industry, Stan Lee also gives writers and potential writers useful advice on how to become a writer.

Stan Lee nearly single-handedly transformed an entire industry from something that was once believed to be a genre for children into one where adult readers could enjoy and relate to.

Amazing fantastic incredible : a marvelous memoir is available in the Popular Reading section of the Library’s collection on the first floor of the Post Learning Commons.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – It’s What We’re Reading


October 2016

“What We’re Reading” is a feature offering periodic reviews from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read. If you find a book which interests you and it is not in our collection, please feel free to acquire the book through our Interlibrary Loan service.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Angela Duckworth.

Angela Duckworth, PhD, a 2013 MacArthur Fellow and professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, has a biography that is, at least to me, intimidating. However, I would posit that Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, is anything but. I found the book to be easily readable, as Duckworth employed a multiplicity of creative techniques to make her points.

From a study on the national spelling bee selection process that looks at whether grit may or may not be playing a role in who makes it to the list of finalists and then on to the eventual winners, to rating a group of historical individuals noted for their intelligence in order to drive home a point about the grit factor, the reports and interviews are interesting, varied and sometimes very personal to the point of being touching.

There are stories of modern individuals, some of whom have achieved name recognition throughout the world for their achievements. Will Smith, actor and musician, is quoted from this interview and he nails it. And while it’s unclear whether Smith is speaking literally of working out from this clip, the fact that we all know who he is, leaves no doubt that he applies this attitude to much more than the treadmill.

Learning to be flexible with mid-level goals, willing to discard them even, is necessary if we really want to achieve the larger goal or goals we have set for ourselves. At that point, applying the grit factor gives you a good recipe for success in something that is important to you.

While reading this book, I found myself thinking about my current pursuits as well as unmet goals I am passionate about and what steps I might need to achieve success in them. If you find yourself thinking the same for yourself or how some of these concepts could be applied to your repertoire of parenting skills, you may want to take a look at Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth, and see what you think. Don’t just take my word for it. You can find this book in the Popular Reading section, 1st Floor Lounge of the PLC.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – It’s What We’re Reading


June 2016

“What We’re Reading” is a feature offering periodic reviews from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read. If you find a book which interests you and it is not in our collection, please feel free to acquire the book through our Interlibrary Loan service.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari.

Sapiens provides a truly thought-provoking “big picture” look at history all the way back to the dawn of our species.

Harari describes three revolutions which brought about dramatic changes to human societies. First is the Cognitive revolution, about 70,000 years ago, which enabled humans to develop speech, which in turn lead to cooperation and the spread of the species around the world. About 11,000 years ago, the Agricultural revolution caused most human groups to settle down and build houses, organizing themselves into ever larger communities and developing governments. The Scientific revolution, beginning a mere 500 years ago, unleashed the powerful forces of imperialism and capitalism and lead to our modern, technology-driven lifestyle.

Together these revolutions have made Sapiens the most successful species ever, but also the most dangerous. Harari argues, in fact, that the average individual today probably has a lower general happiness level than his hunter-gatherer ancestor. Towards the end of the book Harari strays into future prediction, perhaps less successfully. Up to that point, however, the book is so fascinating it is well worth the time to read it.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is available in the Popular Reading section of the Post Learning Commons.

Country — It’s What We’re Reading


May 2016

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

Country

Country
Steel, Danielle

Carpe Diem-Seize the Day! Something everyone should be doing these days.

Stephanie Adams is a stay-at-home mother of three children and is married to a successful lawyer in California. Even though her marriage was dead, she stayed in it for her children. She stood beside her husband even when many would walk away due to his cheating scandal. That will all change in one brief moment. While on an annual ski trip with friends, Stephanie’s husband has a sudden heart attack and passes away.  She begins to struggle with the realization that she was dependent on being needed by her now grown children as well as her husband. She struggles to find herself and has a hard time with feeling lonely in her big empty house and being with her married friends brings back too many memories.  Then one spontaneous decision will change her life forever.

On her way home from a Memorial Day get together with friends in Santa Barbara, Stephanie finds herself on a lonely ride home. Through many wrong turns, she finds herself facing the decision of going home or going to Las Vegas. Deciding on Las Vegas, she meets a man while on a visit to the Grand Canyon. It turns out that the man she has met is the one and only country mega star Chase Taylor. While with Chase in Nashville, Stephanie begins a journey to find her true self and realizes that she no longer is the same women she was and never will be.  Chase makes her realize that she needs to seize the day!

This book truly shows the struggles of one woman who had a rough marriage and finally finds herself and her freedom. It shows the intricate ties between spouses, children, friends, and lovers. It also shows the shock of sudden loss and the freedom it can bring to oneself if they learn to seize the day!

 

Country can be found in the Popular Reading section on the first floor of the Post Learning Commons.

Brotherhood in Death – It’s What We’re Reading


April 2016

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

Brotherhood in Death

Brotherhood in Death
Robb, J. D.

When a number of wealthy and influential men begin disappearing and turning up dead with their bodies exhibiting signs of extreme, sadistic torture, New York City’s top homicide detective becomes involved in a bizarre murder investigation when the first of the victims, a former U.S. senator, is the cousin of a very dear friend.

The vicious nature of the murders reveals a series of insidious crimes dating back decades to a time before Eve Dallas was born, and points to the underlying reason for the horrific murders. A reason that hits very disturbingly close to home for Eve Dallas.

Brotherhood in Death is the 53rd book in the “In Death” series written by prolific romance writer Nora Roberts under the pseudonym J.D. Robb. Unlike the other books in the series where you are able to get into the minds of various characters and know how they are feeling and what they are thinking, Brotherhood in Death, lets you into the mind of just two characters.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas, heads a group of homicide detectives and uniformed police officers within the NYPSD (New York Police and Security Division) in the year 2061. Dallas, the product of a severely traumatic childhood, is a by-the-book, tough-as-nails twelve-year veteran cop who doggedly pursues the worst murderers the city has to offer because she sees death as an insult and those who murder as perversions of the insult.

Eve is often aided by her husband Roarke, considered the richest man in the world with a questionable past, and a division of fiercely loyal and dedicated cops under her command. Eve Dallas spends nearly every waking moment in pursuit of her quarry.

Throughout the series, you get to know what motivates Eve and watch as she goes from someone who vehemently guards her private and professional life and can count the people she calls friend on one hand to someone who slowly and reluctantly falls in love and allows people into corners of her life she kept closed off.

Eve Dallas never had family growing up, but as her career takes its many twists and turns, she discovers a family she never knew she had.

Brotherhood in Death is in the Popular Reading section on the first floor of the Post Learning Commons.

Born of Defiance — It’s What We’re Reading


March 2016

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

Born of Defiance

Born of Defiance
Kenyon, Sherrilyn

Born of Defiance (The League Series Book 9)
By Sherrilyn Kenyon

This is Sherrilyn Kenyon 9th book in “The League” series. The genre is paranormal romance, which may also fall into science fiction. All of her characters grab your heart from the first page and don’t let go until the last. You journey with them through all their trials and get to understand how they find ways, despite seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against them, to maintain their civility and their humility to be the most caring and loving people in the universe.

This series is based in the Ichidian Universe and this book takes place on the planet of Andarion. It’s a planet where a person’s social status is defined by their parent’s lineage. It’s a warrior society, ruled by royalty. For entertainment the masses enjoy arena fighting sometimes ending in death, but successful gladiators rise to become superstars.

This is Talyn Batur’s world. Born out of wedlock and without his father’s lineage, he is treated like an outcast and relegated to the lowest caste of Andarion society. If it were not for his illegitimacy, he would be considered royalty; his mother, Galene Batur, is a high-ranking official in the planetary military. Talyn, a military fighter pilot, spends his leave time as an arena fighter. Despite his successes in the arena, his military commander, Colonel Christen Anatole, despises Talyn and Galene. Unable to take his hatred out on her, Anatole takes his anger out on Talyn reminding him he will never gain full acceptance in Andarion society.

But despite his success in the ring, which brings him great wealth, he is still an outcast. Due to his low class status the only way for him to have a woman is by paying for a contracted companion.
Andarions tolerate contracted companionships as long as strict rules and procedures are followed. Felicia Orfanos decides to become Talyn’s companion in order to help pay her way through medical school. She meets all of the demands of the contract and pays a very steep price because of his caste status. It isn’t long before the two fall in love, but Andarion law will never allow them to marry because of the stigma of Talyn’s lineage.

Andarions are ruled by leader who tyranny threatens to throw their world into chaos. Felicia’s family, powerful adversaries of their leader, join with others in a conflict to overthrow the oppression threatening to destroy their world. A conflict which puts Talyn and Felicia at the center forcing Talyn to make a choice and risk everything and everyone he loves and rebel against the government or remain loyal and suffer the indignity of being an outcast. His life and his world are at stake.

Once you read this book you will want to read the previous volumes in the series.

Born of Defiance is available in the Popular Reading section on the first floor of the Post Learning Commons.

Let the Great World Spin – It’s What We’re Reading


January 2016

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

Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin
McCann, Colum

Let the Great World Spin is a richly textured novel that takes place in NYC on the day in 1974 that Philippe Petit crossed the twin towers of the World Trade Center on a tightrope.

Throughout the book, we meet many individuals, rich and poor, upstanding and outcast alike, whose lives are all connected in someway. Of these, is Corrigan, an Irish monk of sorts living in the Bronx. Early on, Corrigan says he is looking to be in the peaceful center while the great world spins. This imagery is used again, with Petit almost the physical manifestation of the stillness at the center of the bustling city. While he has trained in all kinds of conditions, it is this ability to be at the quiet center that without which, he would not have been successful.

Alternative Country, Folk Rock singer Brandi Carlile employs a similar metaphor in “The Eye” as she sings, “You can dance in a hurricane but only if you’re standing in the eye.” I think McCann would agree.

Not without heartbreak, this book is peppered with tales of unlikely friendships and impish humor. Both restoring your faith in humanity while suffering with its depressing truths, Let the Great World Spin, is a captivating read.

Let the Great World Spin is part of the Library collection and is available in the Popular Reading Section in the Post Learning Commons: PR6063.M24 L47 2009

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – It’s What We’re Reading


December 2015

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

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed
Ronson, Jon

Author Jon Ronson describes social media sites, such as Twitter, have provided a “voice to the voiceless.” It is a place for one to express opinions and feelings, sometimes using this voice to right a wrong. This free expression however has turned into another venue for online shaming and internet vigilantism. Ronson details the experiences of people who have felt the brunt of the humiliation after making mistakes, on Twitter, in their personal life or career. The author explains that while the person in question may deserve some ridicule, the forcefulness and the extent of the damage makes Ronson draw comparisons to angry mobs brandishing pitchforks and putting the accused in stockades for public humiliation. More disturbing is that Ronson points out the schadenfreude and the sense of justice felt by those that have dehumanized the wrong doer. Even if the person “had it coming” does the punishment fit the crime?

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed can be found on the first floor in the Popular Reading section of the Post Learning Commons

Bird Box — It’s What We’re Reading


November 2015

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

Bird Box

Bird Box
Malerman, Josh

You’ll be unable to take your eyes away from this crisp, taut tale. Josh Malerman’s novel is a page-turning combination of Stephen King’s The Mist and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Imagine spending years raising two babies alone. Imagine feeling constant terror that you or your children may glimpse a “creature,” the mere sight of which causes lethal insanity.

But you know of a safe haven, 20 miles downriver. You know you must eventually get yourself and your children there, but how?

This is the plight of heroine Malorie. You’ll admire her courage and determination while wondering how you would manage in her situation.

Bird Box is compelling because it forces the reader to imagine the horrors barely but beautifully described within it. There is nothing scarier than one’s own imagination. This is the author’s debut novel. I can’t imagine what comes next.

Bird Box is shelved in the Popular Reading on the First Floor of the Post Learning Commons.