All posts by Michael Brooks

She’s Not There: A Life In Two Genders – It’s What We’re Reading


October 2015

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

She's Not There: A Life In Two Genders

She’s Not There: A Life In Two Genders
Boylan, Jennifer Finney

Before Caitlyn Jenner, there was Jennifer Finney Boylan. She’s Not There is Boylan’s memoir of changing genders. Boylan, born as James, from a very young age felt that she was female. After getting married and fathering two children, she transitioned to Jennifer.

Boylan’s story is accessible on many levels, because although most people are not transgendered, many do go through times of feeling as though they don’t fit in with everyone else, marital challenges, or difficulties with family and friends. Through it all, Jennifer Boylan maintains a positive outlook and a sense of humor.

Currently the Anna Quindlen Writer-in-Residence at Barnard College of Columbia University, Jennifer Finney Boylan will be speaking at Saint Joseph’s University on February 11, 2016.

She’s Not There: A Life In Two Genders is shelved on the second floor in the Drexel Library.

Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History — It’s What We’re Reading


September 2015

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

Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History

Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of HistoryGarelick, Rhonda K.

Until the movie “Coco Before Chanel,” the only thing I knew about Coco Chanel or her products was her name and the perfume Chanel No. 5. But after I saw this film, I found myself intrigued with her rags to riches story and eagerly awaited reading Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History to find out more about her.

The other biographies I have read have all been of individuals whose actions were admirable in the way they changed the world. And yet, even with these, there were incidents that showed them in a less favorable light. Reading about Coco Chanel was a different type of biography for me. While Coco did indeed change the world, many of the stories about her show her in a less favorable light than the other individuals I have read about before.

Yet, hers is a fascinating story that describes the incredible talent and vision of one woman who more or less single-handedly created haute couture for women the world over. Not content with status quo, Coco continued to drive herself and others, re-envisioning and re-designing as times and events changed her and the women of the world. She was sought out by the wealthy of both sexes and her lovers were from among the richest of the rich.

For all her flaws, one can’t help but admire trendsetting Coco who set women free from the long skirts and washer-women hairdos of the day to a look that is classic and continues to inspire in 2015. Vogue magazine recently ran a full-page ad for Chanel products. In classic black and white, the head and shoulders photo of a model turned slightly to the side, simply adorned with pearls worn backwards, one of Coco Chanel’s signature looks, spoke volumes of how Chanel continues to be at the forefront of fashion today.

How I wish I had known more about her during my whirlwind weekend in Paris. If I ever get the chance to go there again, I will look up 29 Rue Cambon, as well as 31 Rue Cambon, her apartment.

Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History is located in the Popular reading: nonfiction section of the PLC 1st fl.

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 — It’s What We’re Reading


August 2015

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

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
Clark, Christopher

Christopher Clark dives through the clouds of nineteenth and early twentieth-century great power diplomacy, placing his audience waist-deep in the social and political environment that gave way to the First World War. He begins with the ethnically charged nationalism of Serbia, navigating the complex and intertwined growth of national government and secret organizations desiring to wrest the Serb Balkans from the control of the encroaching Austro-Hungarian and receding Ottoman empires. Clark then moves through the principle social, ethnic, economic, and diplomatic underpinnings of the building tensions between the dominant European powers, their relations with the Balkans, and the mobilization for war following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Clark effectively demonstrates that neither the assassins who killed the Archduke, nor the decisions to mobilize for war, were created in a vacuum, but instead were grown and built over several decades of intensifying nationalist and diplomatic jockeying for power.

This book is located on the 3rd floor Book shelves. D511 .C54 2013

Love, Lucy — It’s What We’re Reading


July 2015

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

Love, Lucy

Love, Lucy
Lindner, April (Professor of English, Saint Joesph’s University)

Exploration, choices, relationships, compromises: the stuff of a young adult’s life. We meet Lucy on her post high school backpacking trip to Italy, and continue along as she starts college in Philadelphia at a school very much like SJU. A riff on E.M. Forster’s classic A Room with a View, this makes for great summer reading: take a vicarious European trip and then get psyched for fall semester by looking at our campus experience from a student’s perspective.

This book is located on the 2nd floor Book shelves PS3162.I56 L68 2015

A Stillness at Appomattox – It's What We're Reading


June 2015

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

Stillness at Appomattox

Stillness at Appomattox
Catton, Bruce

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, my book club chose A Stillness at Appomattox by Bruce Catton as one of our selections.

This well-written recounting of the final year of war for the Army of the Potomac was mesmerizing. The research was based on journals, letters, diaries, and other documents so that much of the story is from the perspective of the soldiers involved in the struggle. You were immediately drawn into the conflict and the conditions that the soldiers had to endure, the constant marching, hunger, and lack of sleep. I felt that I could taste the dust that was kicked up by thousands of marching feet, enjoyed the camaraderie of the troops, and shared in their longing for victory. Not being one who normally reads military history, I found that I couldn’t put it down and could not help but be moved by the raw courage of these men.

Stillness at Appomattox won the Pulitzer Prize for History and the National Book Award for Nonfiction. It is the final volume of Catton’s The Army of the Potomac trilogy, but can be read on its own. It can be found on the third floor in the Drexel Library at E470.2.C36S.

The Powerhouse: Inside the Invention of a Battery to Save the World – It's What We're Reading


May 2015

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

The Powerhouse: Inside the Invention of a Battery to Save the World

The Powerhouse: Inside the Invention of a Battery to Save the World
Levine, Steve

Steve Levine’s The Powerhouse unfolds the hectic history of modern battery technology, specifically the now common renditions of the lithium-ion core of modern electronics and electric vehicles. Levine weaves this story as he follows both the growth of the battery division of the Argonne National Laboratory and the network of researchers who share this facility. Levine delves into the personal backgrounds and driving ambitions, and the sometimes fiercely competitive nature, of the leading researchers responsible for the development of modern battery technologies.

Levine sets this research against the backdrop of late twentieth and early twenty-first century nationalist concerns and ambitions to not only develop, but to own and claim dominance, over the battery technology needed to manufacture and deploy fleets of electric vehicles. However, this is a struggle between not just nations, including the United States and China, nor simply well-known corporations, but the individual researchers and developers themselves.

The Powerhouse is an engaging work, full of detail but not overly technical or limited to a niche audience. It is highly recommended for anyone interested in modern technology, the race to build an electric vehicle that provides both performance and longevity, or the developments leading to modern developments in power storage and the recent surge of interest in Tesla vehicles and technologies.

The Powerhouse: Inside the Invention of a Battery to Save the World is available in the Popular Reading section on the First Floor of the Post Learning Commons.

Trinity: a Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb – It’s What We’re Reading


April 2015

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

Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb

Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb
Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

Trinity is an excellent graphic novel detailing the history and the efforts that went into the development of the most destructive weapon in human history. As with most graphic novels, the illustrations complement the text and dialogue masterfully. The book is written with succinct conciseness getting to the point without the drawn-out, convoluted exposition a longer non-fiction work would labor over.

The book begins with a brief history of the discovery of polonium, radium, and their natural byproduct: radiation. It outlines the discovery of the structure of atoms, the potential to harness incredible energy—a concept not lost on writers like H. G. Wells—and the eventual race to be the first to produce and control this energy.

Trinity examines not only the efforts to build atomic weapons, but looks also at the ethical dilemma of those involved with the secret Manhattan Project, the use of the first atomic weapons, the aftermath of their use, and the ignorance of a world gone mad in a race to produce weapons so powerful that their use could result in the total annihilation of all life on Earth. Correlations are made between Zeus’ punishment of Prometheus for giving man the tool of fire before he was intelligent enough to use it and the development of nuclear power by man himself in a world still not yet intelligent enough to fully comprehend the consequences of possessing such devastating power.

Trinity is available in the Popular Reading section on the First Floor of the Post Learning Commons.

Once upon a Grind – It’s What We’re Reading


March 2015

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

Once Upon a Grind

Once Upon a Grind
Cleo Coyle

Once Upon a Grind is the 14th installment to Celo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mystery series. Clare Cosi is a coffeehouse manager who is drawn into a series of insidious adventures during a Fairy Tale Fall event in New York when Prince Charming is mysteriously sickened and the Pink Princess is turned into a Sleeping Beauty. An unsolved murder during the Cold War is somehow linked to a present-day murder and attempted murder. Clare soon becomes embroiled in a quandary of espionage as she works to clear international coffee hunter, and ex-husband, Matt Allegro, who is framed for murder and attempted murder.

Though part of a continuing series, this book is an excellent stand-alone read, as are its predecessors. Cleo Coyle’s characters are down-to-earth and lovable.

Once Upon a Grind is located in our Popular Reading: Fiction section on the 1st Floor of the Post Learning Commons.

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.

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.