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Category: Uncategorized

Dec 05 2014

The Secret Place

Book: The Secret Place

Author: Tana French

Reviewer: Kristen Wilson, Associate Head, Acquisitions and Discovery, NCSU Libraries

Tana French’s The Secret Place is quite possibly the best of her excellent Dublin Murder Squad mystery series. She makes great use of the procedural genre, in particular an extended sequence where one of the main detectives interviews eight girls at an elite private school back to back. Each interview is a masterful character sketch, and all were completely fascinating. I also like how French is able to balance the classic procedural format with plot elements that are deliberately fanciful. She does this in every novel she’s written, and it gives her work a feel that is both emotionally real and somehow beyond reality.

Dec 01 2014

Tomatoland, Cobalt Blue and A Stricken Field

Book: Tomatoland

Author: Barry Estabrook

Reviewer: Orion Pozo, Collection Manager, Engineering, NCSU Libraries

A report on the Florida agricultural businesses that supply winter tomatoes to supermarkets, Tomatoland focuses on a city most people don’t know – a drained swamp just 42 miles inland from Naples Florida called Immokalee. It investigates the agriculture techniques required to grow tomatoes in Florida, including the heavy use of fungicides, pesticides and herbicides, many of which are dangerous to humans. The book also looks at labor conditions and the efforts that have been taken to improve them.  If you care about social justice for farmworkers and their families, as well as your own diet, then this is a book to read before going to the grocery for your winter tomatoes.

Book: Cobalt Blue

Author: Peggy Payne

Reviewer: Orion Pozo, Collection Manager, Engineering, NCSU Libraries

When a down-on-her-luck North Carolina artist is struck one night with the grace of kundalini energy, she struggles with sexual and creative urges caused by her rising kundalini while having to negotiate her biggest commission ever, the official portrait of a right-wing US Senator from North Carolina whose political values are abhorrent to her. Cobalt Blue is a joyous and affirming book about our inner ability to grow and change.

Book: A Stricken Field

Author: Martha Gellhorn

Reviewer: Orion Pozo, Collection Manager, Engineering, NCSU Libraries

With the signing of the 1938 Munich Agreement, Nazi Germany annexed portions of Czechoslovakia inhabited by German speakers, an area that came to be known as the Sudetenland. A Stricken Field is a novel based on a week Martha Gellhorn spent in Prague in 1938 where she got caught up in the plight of the refugees fleeing the German occupation. No longer citizens of Czechoslovakia, they were being forced to return to German controlled territory where they feared for their lives. Confronted all around by the terrible problems of good citizens hiding and being forced to return to the brutal oppression of the Nazis, Gellhorn wrote this novel about two refugees Rita and Peter who, for a brief period of time, had found refuge in each other’s love.

Dec 01 2014

Sabbath’s Theater and Ablutions

Book: Sabbath’s Theater

Author: Phillip Roth

Reviewer: John Papalas, Friends of the Library board member

Sabbath’s Theater by Phillip Roth is a full length novel that, while I can’t compare it to everything across Roth’s body of work, I can say gave me a character in Mickey Sabbath that I will never forget.  If you consider the following behaviors prohibitively coarse fictional subject matters: autoerotic cemetery folly, bartering with alcohol for favors at a detox clinic, seducing the college students you teach, et cetera,  then perhaps this one isn’t for you. However, if you want to ride shotgun alongside a reckless genius who crashes through life with a perverse drive fueled by a sense of unapologetic conceit, then I think you too will never forget Mickey Sabbath and perhaps like me, wonder if people like him have ever, or even can, exist.

Book: Ablutions: Notes for a Novel

Author: Patrick deWitt

Reviewer: John Papalas, Friends of the Library board member

“Discuss, the regulars. They sit in a line like ugly, huddled birds, eyes wet with alcohol” opens, Ablutions: Notes for a Novel, by Patrick deWitt. Dreams die hard on the Sunset strip, and a chaotic dive bar seemingly on the brink of everything is the backdrop for this autobiographical/fictive account given from the perspective of a deteriorating anti-hero barman. Physically occupying a liminal position at the end of the bar near the door, the narrator sees both inside and out, observes who enters and exits (with no ostensible criteria for either), the chronic practice of which produces a bleak, yet by no means humorless, dystopian Cheers. Ablutions is a story told by the Hollywood bar scene’s Johannes factotum who in turn (like the cheep highballs fleeced from the bar), gives the reader a taste of both the sweet and acidulous as we observe his struggle to escape.

Nov 21 2014

Painting as a Pastime

Book: Painting as a Pastime

Author: Winston Churchill

Reviewer: Josephine McRobbie, NCSU Libraries Fellow

I picked up an early edition of Painting as a Pastime in a flea market as a present for my father, who is a Churchill fanatic.  I ended up reading it cover-to-cover in one sitting, completely enraptured.  This unusual book is Churchill’s essay on the importance of deep engagement with hobbies that are different, in terms of mental and physical demands, from one’s everyday work.  In Churchill’s case, it was oil painting that allowed him some mental peace and emotional release from the “Black Dog” of depression and then-recent career setbacks.

Nov 21 2014

Welcome to the 2014 “The Best Book I Read This Year” Reviews

Just in time for holiday reading and gift giving, NCSU Libraries has reprised its popular “The Best Book I Read This Year” blog with new entries from 2014. We asked students, alumni, Friends of the Library board members, faculty and staff to share their very-best, couldn’t-resist book picks and are delighted to share them with you. From picks for kids to high brow literature, this blog is sure to include something for every reader.

We’d also love to hear from you — if you’ve got a book that knocked your socks off in 2014, take a few moments and follow the link below to submit your own review.

Submit your own review!

Read 2013 reviews.

Read 2012 reviews.

Dec 02 2011

The Checklist Manifesto

Book: The Checklist Manifesto
Author: Atul Gawande
Reviewer: Venkitasubramanian Akshay, student, Industrial and Systems Engineering, NC State

A simple solution to a complicated world. This book is an exciting read for anyone who is looking for an excuse to discover the power of simple Post-its and how it has transformed the world around us. Beautifully written, this is by far the best book I have read this year

Nov 29 2011

Bright Shiny Morning

Book: Bright Shiny Morning
Author: James Frey
Reviewer: William L. Page, NC State alumni, class of 1983

The story takes place in Los Angeles and has four story lines.  A homeless person, a young couple from Ohio, an immigrant Mexican, and a mega famous movie star. They are all chasing something in LA and encounter some tremendous struggles.  The book also mixes some very cool facts and history about the city of Angels.  What I especially like is the ending, one happy, one tragic, and two kind of in-between.  Try it — it’s fast, it’s engaging, and unique!