Book of the Month | March | Spring 2018

It’s spring break time here at Prairie State, and time to catch up on that most elusive of pastimes for busy college students– reading for pleasure!

Our recommended read for March is Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn.

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Book description: “August returns to Brooklyn to bury her father, and a chance encounter with a friend in her old neighborhood prompts a flood of memories from her youth. Her memories explore what it was like to be an African-American girl (and teen) in the 1970s, what possibilities existed — and what challenges. This tale of friendship, love, and loss cuts back and forth through time.” — Description by Shauna Griffin. 

Another Brooklyn is a 2016 New York Times Notable Book, a Booklist Editor’s Choice for adult and teen fiction, a recipient of the Black Caucus of the ALA’s award for fiction, and a 2016 National Book Award finalist. Another Brooklyn may be checked out from the Prairie State College Library.

If you enjoyed Another Brooklyn, let us know! We also have some readalikes for you:

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson  (JUV WOO)

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (FIC WAR)

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin (FIC BAL)

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (FIC ISH)

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We hope you are enjoying your time off, but you can still pop in to the library from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during Spring Break, just in case you missed us. Rest up, rejuvenate and read something that’s not part of an assignment. 🙂

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It’s the End of the World as We Know It!

Display Sign DystopiaNovels set in dark and dangerous worlds where the authorities can not be trusted somehow manage to pique our imaginations. Dystopias, as they’re called, range from scary to downright disturbing and all serve to highlight aspects of our current society that could cause everything to go horribly, horribly wrong.

These books contain just enough of what is happening now to make us wonder, could it really happen? The authors access the readers’ darkest fears and make them into reality in ink. Marauding robots? Nuclear fallout? Teenagers fighting to the death? Zombies!!? If you or the author can think it into reality, these books will take you to a future world where it happened, and it went bad.

So if you have a hankering to fight zombies, battle robots, stop worldwide pandemics, or ponder what it could be like, check out our display in the library before it too, comes to an end too!

You can also get some pointers on how to survive in a Dystopia according to books from this article by Book Riot.

 

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The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry

The Giver  (The Giver Quart...As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one of my favorite summer activities is reading outside, on the beach, in a hammock, in Grant Park, wherever I can find a comfortable spot. This summer a friend recommended that I try The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry. It was the best series I read this summer.

The Giver, the first book in the quartet, tells the tale of a young boy named Jonas who appears to live in an ideal community.  There is no strife, no fighting, everyone knows what to do and what is expected of them.  Then, Jonas is assigned an unusual role in the community, and suddenly everything around him seems different. It will take all his courage to fulfill his new purpose.

Each book in the series follows the story of a young man or woman forced to struggle against events much larger than themselves. Inspiring and thought-provoking, this quartet is the perfect summer read.

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Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Nailer and his crew work to scavenge valuable parts from old oil-tankers run aground on the stretch of Gulf Coast known as Bright Sands Beach. The people of Bright Sands Beach know nothing but ship breaking and poverty. They often wonder if they’ll be able to scavenge enough to pay for their next meal and if the next storm will destroy the rough shacks along the beach they call home.

After a particularly big storm destroys the whole beach, Nailer finds a luxury ship run aground, but when he discovers the ship’s owner still alive, Nailer has to decide whether to look out for his own interests or to help this girl, who claims to be the ship’s very rich and powerful owner.

Continue reading “Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi”

One Last Summer Read

Sand castle on beachAs summer draws to a close, I enjoy reading one last fun, easy novel before the responsibilities of fall begin.  This year I picked up Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.  Before Katniss and Peeta fought in the Hunger Games, before Harry, Ron, and Hermione battled Lord Voldemort, even before Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy went into the wardrobe, Anne Shirley was inadvertently causing mayhem on Prince Edward Island. Green Gables is a little farm in Avonlea, a small community on the island.  Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, two middle-aged siblings, decide to adopt a boy to help Matthew run the farm.  In a fortunate mix-up, the orphanage sends a young girl with bright red hair and a vivid imagination instead of a boy.

With nothing but good intentions, Anne gets into one scrap after another.  Green hair dye, leaky boats, and haunted woods are just a few examples of her many adventures.  A perfect escape for readers of all ages, take some time to enjoy the escapades of this lovable redhead before the summer ends.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

In my last post, I described how I used the novels of Khaled Hosseini to “travel” to Afghanistan. Today I write about a different sort of travel experience through literature—an exploration of a culture within the United States unfamiliar to many. Sherman Alexie, who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington state, brings the contemporary American Indian experience to life in an eye-opening and poignant way. His novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is autobiographical. The story of his protagonist, Arnold Spirit, Jr., closely parallels the life of the author. Born with physical deformities which make him the object of ridicule by his peers, yet keenly intelligent and unsatisfied with the limitations of reservation life, Arnold makes the radical decision to leave the reservation school and attend Reardan High School in a white community twenty-two miles away. Doing so, he faces challenges from all sides. At Reardan, he encounters racist taunts and tries to hide his poverty. On the reservation, he is ostracized by his community for betraying his Indian heritage. All the time he contends with the social problems in the Indian community—poverty, alcoholism, violence, the untimely deaths of loved ones, hopelessness, and feelings of inferiority. Over the course of this novel, through the support of his family, his new and old friendships, his brains, and his newly discovered basketball talent, Arnold finds his way, grows, and thrives. While the subject matter of this novel is serious, the first-person narrator entertains the reader with his humorous tone and teenage perspective. As Arnold is a budding cartoonist, the book is also illustrated with “his drawings” (done by artist Ellen Forney).  But do not dismiss this book for its pictures or its teenage point of view—Alexie writes for all ages, and he has received some of the most prestigious awards in literature. The book reads quickly, but anyone who spends even a short time with Arnold grows to care about him and cheer for him as he reaches for his dreams.

Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Pena

Sometimes sports allow us to connect with people we wouldn’t otherwise know how to talk to. In Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Pena, Danny doesn’t speak to anyone unless he absolutely has to. While visiting his dad’s relatives over the summer he finally starts to fit in when they all realize that he loves baseball as much as they do. It turns out that he’s actually a really talented pitcher, but he’s not playing on a team because he loses his control as soon as he faces a live batter.

Part of the reason Danny’s spending the summer with his dad’s family is because Danny thinks his dad left the family because Danny wasn’t Mexican enough. With a blonde-haired blue-eyed white mother, Danny thinks his father got tired of living in a white world and hopes that by spending the summer with his Mexican relatives, his dad will see that he’s Mexican enough for him to come back.

Continue reading “Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Pena”

Check this Book Out! The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker

Check out the NEW BOOKS DISPLAY in the library for titles that have recently been added to our collection. Featured this month is Elna Baker’s memoir The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, where the author charmingly recounts the challenges of being an abstinent Mormon in New York City. As Baker goes through a dramatic metamorphosis (she loses 80 pounds and finds herself suddenly hot) she struggles to balance her religious beliefs with her search for romance in the Big Apple. Through it all, her sense of humor carries the day, making this one story you won’t want to put down.

You can find The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance and any of the titles below on the NEW BOOK DISPLAY.

Upstate, by Kalisha Buckhanon

“Baby, the first thing I need to know from you is do you believe I killed my father?”

The first line of Antonio’s letter to Natasha is written from a jail cell. He’s been accused of murdering his abusive father. Her letter in reply is full of uncertainty, but also overflowing with support and love.

We eavesdrop on the trial from Antonio’s point of view, and from the outside it’s easy to see how the cards are stacked against him from the beginning. His letters from prison reveal his struggle to keep up with school and focus on the future when so much in his life is hard and threatening.

Meanwhile, Natasha’s life is moving forward. High school is a struggle, but she’s committed to it. She goes on a trip to Paris with her French class. Her world is getting bigger by the day, and college is just ahead.

These letters between the two span a decade. They talk about everything: his prison sentence, her struggles with high school, the changes in their families and in their Harlem neighborhood, and eventually, the details of the crime that has separated them.  Despite the flaws they reveal, both Natasha and Antonio are easy to root for, both as a couple and as individuals. Eventually they both change, grow up, and grow apart. Bittersweet, but a lot like real life.

Let the games begin.

Despite recommendations from two friends that I consider reliable sources on the subject of good books, I was still resistant to reading the Hunger Games trilogy (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay).  I was skeptical that I would enjoy a young-adult science fiction novel (I was wrong), and put off reading the books for almost a year.

It was during a trip to Mexico over holiday break that I decided to take the plunge, and even my husband joined in the adventure (he loved them too).  The books basically consumed us for the whole vacation- we were either reading or talking about the books.  We found ourselves contemplating deep questions such as, “will Katniss end up with Peeta or Gale?” Continue reading “Let the games begin.”