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Category: 2012 Entries

Dec 04 2012

The News From Spain

Book: The News From Spain

Author: Joan Wickersham

Reviewer: Dr. Angela Wiseman, Assistant Professor, Elementary Education

This book features seven short stories that focus on love and relationships among very different kinds of people at different times in history (in fact, two of the stories are based on prominent historical figures).  The one strand that connects these stories together is that a phrase “the news from Spain” that emerges in each story.  By using vivid descriptions, realistic characters, and true to life relationship contexts, I found myself drawn into complex and insightful stories.

Dec 04 2012

Cosmos

Book: Cosmos

Author: Carl Sagan

Reviewer: Haritha Malladi, student, engineering

Of all the books I have read in my life until now, I will always remember Carl Sagan’s Cosmos as the book that brought back meaning into my life. With wonderful humility Dr. Sagan makes the unfathomably huge Cosmos come to life with words that are clearly written from the heart, complemented by beautiful photographs and illustrations. In the deafening noise of various philosophies that concern the meaning of life, Dr. Sagan’s voice is the soothing balm of reason to chaffed and tired ears.

Nov 30 2012

Blue Gold

Book: Blue Gold

Author: Maude Barlow & Tony Clarke

Reviewer: Hannah Gotsch, student, engineering

This is an amazing nonfiction book that sums up the global issues on water and expresses all the dilemmas humans have created by increasingly depleting the supply of water.  We have extracted ground water faster than it can be replenished because the surface water has  been polluted, used up until rivers were dry because of dams, or salinated and sent back to the sea—thereby increasing the sea level exponentially. It reminds us that a loss of a diminishing energy source is not the only problem we face.

Nov 28 2012

Proof of Heaven

Book: Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife

Author: Eben Alexander, M.D.

Reviewer: Laura Jackson, University Library Technician, Collection Management, NCSU Libraries

This book is truly a marvelous read as it is a tale of a neurosurgeon who ends up comatose and experiences Heaven. Fascinating medical information describing why his particular experience is so unique and beautiful descriptions of the metaphysical and spiritual journey in which he partakes intertwine to make this memoir so engaging. Whether you are a person of faith or a skeptic, this book will definitely pique your interest.

Nov 27 2012

Never Let Me Go and Waiting for the Barbarians

Book: Never Let Me Go

Author: Kazou Ishiguro

and

Book: Waiting for the Barbarians

Author: J. M. Coetzee

Reviewer: John Papalas, Friends of the Library board member

So hard to pick one favorite, so here are my top two.

In the wake of Ray Bradbury’s death earlier this year, I made a point to read some works by authors he had influenced. The title of the book Never Let Me Go, by Kazou Ishiguro could also describe the readers’ reluctance to put the book down after delving in. What makes the story so subtly unsettling is the otherwise near complete contextual normalcy in which three all but normal friends mature to self-actualized individuals. No cheap thrills are needed (or used) as Ishiguro masterfully highlights the thin yet dark lines that divides our humanity from medical progress.
Do not read Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee if you are looking for a quick pick-me-up. Within the confines of just a few pages, this novel holds a mirror up to the Imperialistic tradition of expansion and progress, and what you see looking back is alien, if not loathsome.   This Nobel laureate draws upon the evocative themes of isolation (mental and physical), exposure to elemental extremes, and societal disorder, to keep the reader eagerly hoping for just a dash of good fortune for the narrator. When I finished reading this book, I was eerily reminded of the prophetic words mumbled by Joseph Conrad’s’ Mr. Kurtz, another monstrosity of Imperialism;  “The horror! The horror!”
Nov 20 2012

Lay Down Your Arms, The Autobiography of Martha von Tilling

Book: Lay Down Your Arms, The Autobiography of Martha von Tilling

Author: 2d revised edition by Bertha von Suttner; authorized translation by T. Holmes

Reviewer: Orion Pozo, Collection Manager for Engineering & Computer Science, NCSU Libraries

Google Books, Internet Archive and other online sources of Public Domain literature have opened up a new world for me in 19th and early 20th century reading. In 1905 Bertha Von Suttner was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her novel, Die Waffen nieder! (Lay Down Your Arms!), and for her work in organizing an international peace movement. This popular novel, written in an autobiographic style, introduced thousands of readers of her time to the arguments of pacifism by telling the story of a woman, raised in a military family, who becomes opposed to war, and sets out to document rational arguments against the patriotic reasons nations put forward to justify their wars. Leo Tolstoy compared the effect Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin had on the abolition of slavery to the effect Lay Down Your Arms was having towards the abolition of war. Her hope to find a rational way to end armed conflict is so inspiring to me.

Nov 20 2012

11/22/63

Book: 11/22/63

Author: Stephen King

Reviewer: Anna Snyder, Intern, NC LIVE

Jake Epping, a high school teacher, reads a story one of his GED-seeking students wrote about his horrible family history, and then finds out the local diner has a gateway to the past in it. Jake sets out to change the past, starting with preventing the crime his student’s father committed, and then takes over the mission to prevent JFK’s assassination. With good intentions (more civil rights progress, no Vietnam war), Jake finds that every change made in the past creates unexpected changes in the future. With incredibly in-depth details about the years leading up to JFK’s assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald’s life, and an interesting cast of characters, this book is one you cannot put down.

Nov 20 2012

Help Me to Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery

Book:  Help Me to Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery

Author: Heather Andrea Williams

Reviewer: Catherine Bishir, Curator of Architecture Special Collections, NCSU Libraries

Starting with her discovery of advertisements placed in newspapers by freedpeople of after the war, hoping to find a long lost parent, child, or mate, Williams expanded her study to a wide range of sources to illuminate the separation of families through sales and gifts during slavery time, and family members’ impassioned and determined efforts to find their kin after Emancipation. She tells this story in personal and engaging terms–sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyful–that will appeal to many readers. She makes wonderful use of brief anecdotes she has found, including first-hand accounts of losses and reunions, a love letter from an enslaved man to his faraway wife, and an embroidered bag filled with a mother’s love. Excellent book. It will be on my Christmas giving list for more than one friend. Bravissima to Professor Williams,

Catherine Bishir

Nov 20 2012

Ready Player One

Book: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

Reviewer: Jason Raitz, Business and Technology Applications Technician, NCSU Libraries

This book is for the gamers and children of the 70′s-80′s.  It’s a book that is equal parts Zork, John Hughes, Atari, Willy Wonka, treasure hunting, virtual reality, and of course coming of age.  If you like text adventures, virtual worlds and the movie Sixteen Candles, then you’re really going to enjoy this book.  There was a real life easter egg hunt this summer sponsored by the author to win a Delorian, but unfortunately, someone’s already claimed it.

Nov 20 2012

The Big Short

Book: The Big Short

Author: Michael Lewis

Reviewer: David Hiscoe, Director, Communication Strategy, NCSU Libraries

Want some understanding of the incredibly irresponsible behavior that almost gave all of us another Great Depression?  Still don’t know what a CDO is?  Don’t understand why Wall Street needs careful attention from aggressive, disinterested regulators so perhaps we won’t have to live through something like this again?.  Want to know how almost everybody in Iceland got rich overnight–and then got very poor?  Moneyball’s Michael Lewis makes it all interesting.

Nov 20 2012

Drowned Cities

Book: Drowned Cities

Author: Paolo Bacigalupi

Reviewer: Cris Crissman, Adjunct Asst Professor, Curriculum, Instruction & Counselor Education

My vote for best young adult novel for 2012 goes to Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi.  Frighteningly realistic after hurricanes have “drowned” New Orleans and New York, Bacigalupi’s dystopian, biopunk setting presents a grim future of what might yet be if we can’t quell the ravage caused by climate change and loss of homeland and humanity that result. Tool, a bioethics nightmare, is one of the most complex, fascinating characters I’ve ever met.

Nov 20 2012

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach

Book: Martina the Beautiful Cockroach

Author: Carmen Deedy

Reviewer: Sharon Silcox, University Library Technician, Design Library

I know you are looking for a new, delightful book for all the young and young-at-heart on your Christmas list! Martina the Beautiful Cockroach by Carmen Deedy fits the bill perfectly! How does a cheeky little cockroach find true love with the help of her wise Abuela ( grandmother) and – COFFEE? This amusing, clever re-telling of a Cuban folktale will solve that mystery and have you cheering for Martina and all her cucaracha family! Plus, it is so much fun to read aloud! This is what I call a surprise book, a story and pictures that comes seemingly out of the blue and makes my heart smile.

Nov 20 2012

Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World

Book: Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World

Author: Roger Crowley

Reviewer: Keith Morgan, Librarian for Digital Technologies and Learning, NCSU Libraries

Roger Crowley rousingly relates the story of Venice’s rise from backwards lagoon to the dominant commercial maritime empire in the 1400s.  With this he also tells the story of the Mediterranean and of the powers which contested for dominance. Crowley’s style is energetic and much of the book has a velocity more common to a fictional thriller.Throughout the  book runs the thread of the simmering and then open conflict with Islam that was to dominate the western world for so many centuries.

Nov 20 2012

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Book: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Author: Robin Sloan

Reviewer: Keith Morgan, Librarian for Digital Technologies and Learning

This intelligent and amusing book features bookstores, 3D modeling software, references Aldus Manutius,  plus a dungeons and dragon fantasy , describes the Gerritzoon font  (standard on all Macs according to the novel) and an ancient conspiracy involving books.  A trip to the Google campus in Mountain View and a visit to the Google Book Scanner add more candy to the mix. There’s also lots of conversation about the differences between reading books and reading on a device, between reading and actually not reading books. Recommended for fans of Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind or the bibliothriller in general.

Nov 20 2012

Infinite Jest

Book: Infinite Jest

Author: David Foster Wallace

Reviewer: Dan Hawkins, University Library Technician, NCSU Libraries

I remember seeing this book in stores in the late 90′s and being put off by its size and judging by the blurbs, its pretension. Several years later I stumbled across a book of his essays which I found largely delightful. I then proceeded to another book of essays and then short stories and his first novel. By this time I was a raving fan. I still put off reading this one though, primarily due to its size. I finally got around to it this year, and it is well worth the effort it take to read it (its structure (hundreds of end notes, some with their own end notes) does make it feel at times like the world’s longest choose your own adventure novel). It takes the form of an ironic, distant, dystopian satire, but is in reality a raw look at the ravages of addiction and the dangers of mass culture. Wallace is brilliant, but he does not make you feel dumb. A third of the book viciously satirizes a culture that is entertaining itself to death. The second is a coming of age story. The final third is a searing view of the life of drug addicts and their attempts to quit using which doubles as a warning metaphor for the dangers of vicarious life through media. I might recommend taking my approach and starting with some of the other books, perhaps the essays, and then proceed on to this one. But by all means read this book. It does have pretensions, but it delivers. A truly great novel.

Nov 20 2012

Steve Jobs

Book: Steve Jobs

Author:Walter Isaacson

Reviewer: Warren Stephenson, Friends of the Library Board Member, NCSU Libraries

I read Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs early this year and it is still unforgettable!  Evidently the man was driven by demons and made life miserable for his work partners.  His genius is evident in every Apple product because of his quest for perfection – to the tiniest detail you can imagine.  I remember one of his quotes; “they don’t  really know what they (the public) need until I show them!”  What a philosophy and what a story!  It is one of my “best books ever!”

Nov 20 2012

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Book: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Author: Jonathan Haidt

Reviewer:Dr. Frank Abrams, Professor Emeritus, Biological And Agricultural Engineering

Professor Haidt, a social psychologist, provides a cogent discussion of how liberals and conservatives construct their moral underpinnings.  For all of us, Haidt says, in forming our viewpoints, emotions rule and our reasoning ability, at least at first, strongly supports where our emotions lead us.  This book offers a way to empathetically view at least some of those who see things very differently.

Nov 20 2012

Dancing After Hours and Townie

Book: Dancing After Hours

Author: Andre Dubus II

and

Book: Townies

Author: Andre Dubus III

Reviewer: Kathy Brown, Director, Planning and Research, NCSU Libraries

After reading Dancing after Hours by Andre Dubus II, I’ll be tracking down his other collections of short stories.  Dubus conveys the struggles of his characters with compassion and a beautiful style, and he was regarded as a master of the short story genre.  A man of great insight, Dubus wrestled his own demons during his life and was, from all accounts, an incredibly lousy father.  Townie, a memoir by Andre Dubus III (also the author of The House of Sand and Fog), describes a life of abject poverty in Haverhill (Massachusetts) after his parent’s divorce.  The younger Dubus exposes the rage that stemmed in large part from his father’s absence and offers a compelling view of how natural it was for him to move down a path of self-destructive violence.  Writing sustained the father and undoubtedly saved the son, who was able to achieve a measure of forgiveness and love for someone who did little to earn it.
Nov 20 2012

2666

Book: 2666

Author: Robert Bolano

Reviewer: Chris Tonelli, Assistant to the Director, NCSU Libraries

This book is like Javier Bardem’s character, Anton Chigurh, in No Country for Old Men. It’s will is simply more imposing than the will of other books. There is more at stake. It is both more disciplined and more brutal. Like Bolano’s Savage Detectives, 2666 splits time between Europe and Mexico and features a group of European literary critics, a Mexican professor, an American journalist, hundreds of murdered young Mexican women, and a young writer on the Eastern Front of WWII. With what amounts to a kind of Cubist narrative, Bolano relentlessly explores the juxtapositions of art, politics, violence, and love.