Category Archives: What We’re Reading

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.)

Old Mars - It's What We're Reading


April
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


March
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


January
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


December
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


November
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.

How to Save a Life – It's What We're Reading


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

11/23/63 How to Save a Life
by Sara Zarr

Jill, a high school senior in Denver, is struggling in the wake of her father’s sudden death the previous year. She is not at all pleased when her mother decides to channel her own grief into adopting an infant, and invites Mandy, a pregnant teenager from Iowa, to come live with them until the baby is born. Told in alternating voices by outraged Jill and reticent Mandy, this story is truly riveting.

This book can be found in the Children’s Literature collection on the second floor of the Library in the Curriculum Materials Center (CMC). The call number is PZ7.Z26715 H69 2011.

Life of Pi - It's What We're Reading


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

11/23/63 Life of Pi
by Yann Martel

By now, you’ve seen enough images from the award-winning movie to know that Life of Pi has something to do with an Indian boy who is in a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger. What you may or may not know is that this movie is based on a book by Yann Martel — a very unusual book. But then, the boy’s name is Pi, like the irrational number, so already the stage is set for something unusual. The book reveals itself as a story told in the present about events that transpired in the past. The boy was shipwrecked; he lost his family, and somehow survived many adventures over a long period of time with a Bengal Tiger as his shipmate. Once the ordeal is over, another story is told. Which story will you believe?

Check it out. We own it in the Drexel Library.

This book can be found in the English Literature collection on the first floor of the Library. The call number is PR9199.3.M3855 L54 2001.

We have it in audiobook format as well in the Audiobook collection on the first floor of the Library. The call number is PR9199.3 .M3855 2002

11/22/63 - It's What We're Reading


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

11/23/63 11/22/63: a novel
by Stephen King

We know how our world has changed since the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Jr. But, what if Kennedy didn’t die? That’s the final section of 11/22/63: a novel, however, King doesn’t go right to 1963. Before we get to 1963, we have to go back and forth in history a few times with Jake Epping, a teacher, of Lisbon Falls, Maine, getting to know him. While we’re getting to know Jake, we are also getting to know how this version of time travel works, while he tries to change history in smaller ways as test runs before the big event.

The mode of time travel that King chooses isn’t your standard issue science fiction time travel machine. It’s a portal in the storage room of a diner, a portal that always opens to the same date and location, September 9, 1958 in Lisbon Falls. And the portal resets any changes made if, after leaving the past, one goes back again. In Jake’s first forays through the portal he stays in Maine, doesn’t stay long, and returns to the his own time to check on what changes he wrought on the past.

The meat of the story is really Jake’s ultimate trip, when he goes to 1958 in Maine, and stays until 1963, moving eventually to Texas with stops on the way. Jake leads a kind of dual life in the past. He has his regular daily life with work and friends, and also his hidden life where he looks into Lee Harvey Oswald’s life, visits the Texas School Book Depository, and does other research, getting prepared to try to stop Oswald from assassinating JFK. No spoilers here, though, so if you want to know what happens you’ll have to read 11/22/63: a novel.

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

Wedding Night - It's What We're Reading

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

Wedding Night  Wedding Night
by Sophie Kinsella

Save some brain cells and sit back with a great read that will have you giggling, and on the edge of your seat (or beach towel) waiting to find out what happens next in Lottie’s love life. Enjoy Lottie’s adventure of love and all the “easy” things that go along with a relationship as she anticipates a proposal of marriage and instead gets a proposal for a vacation abroad.

Accepting an offer by her ex-boyfriend Ben to run off with him for a little fun in the sun on a Greek island, Lottie thinks his suggestion is an offer of marriage and unwittingly gets involved in a tangled web of adventure and misadventure as their friends and family, believing the marriage is a mistake, plot to derail their plans and save her and Ben from destroying their lives and their future.

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