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Down the Rabbit Hole

There's a crispness in the air these days that makes us want to grab a pile of mysteries and head down the rabbit hole (figuratively, of course). If you too can't get enough of those dark thrillers that make you shiver with the lights on, here are our recommendations to keep you turning the pages well after sundown. 

Straight off the library's New Mystery shelf, we found four titles with a hefty chill factor. A Study in Crimson: Sherlock Holmes 1942 by Robert J. Harris follows the killing spree of "Crimson Jack," a stalker who roams the wartime streets of London murdering women on the exact dates of the infamous Jack the Ripper killings of 1888. But even quiet neighborhoods are not immune to murder. Megan Miranda's Such a Quiet Place is a new novel about a sleepy, idyllic town where, after more than a year of as the topic of negative news in the media, residents are  trapped, unable to sell their homes and confronted by the empty house where a grisly murder took place. We're left breathless over The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Mattheson, a story about a serial killer and his copycat locked in a violent game of cat and mouse. Topping the gruesome list  is C.J. Box's Dark Sky, his new novel about Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett who must accompany a Silicon Valley CEO on a hunting trip--but soon learns that he himself may be the prey. 

On the cusp of autumn, sinister titles set in the north have a compass-like attraction. Settling in with Jamey Bradbury's electrifying 2018 debut, The Wild Inside, a horror novel about a woman who is attacked by a mysterious stranger while hunting near her family home in remote Alaska--we found it an engaging read for fans of Stephen King or Chris Bohjalian. And speaking of faraway lands, prolific author Ann Cleeves' Red Bones (Minotaur Books, 2009) spins a noirish yarn about an archeological dig where the human remains discovered are recent and the subsequent murder of an elderly woman further disturbs a sparsely-populated Shetland community. Yrsa Sigurdardóttir's The Absolution (Minotaur Books, 2020) about a serial killer who brands his victims with numbers will keep you frozen on the sofa long into the night. The creep factor rises a few more notches with Lars Kepler's The Rabbit Hunter (Knopf, 2020), a haunting story that begins with a Swedish nursery rhyme, then launches into a murder investigation about a  killer who savors the slow deaths of his victims--frosty fare of the highest order. 

If you gravitate toward thrillers about political intrigue and manhunts, Frederik Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal, a 1971 classic thriller about a plot to assassinate Charles de Gaulle will not fail to satisfy. Ditto for Michael Connelly's The Poet, a 1996 mystery about a serial killer who hunts homicide detectives. For a more historical twist on manhunts, C.S. Harris' new novel, What the Devil Knows reaches back to 19th-century London, where police search for a serial killer who murders entire families in their homes, paralyzing the city in fear. 

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the scariest of all? That would be none other than We Were Killers Once by Becky Masterman, a speculative work loosely based on Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, the 1966 true crime story about two ex-prisoners whose random murder of a rural family shocked the nation. The premise of Masterman's 2019 novel is that the Holcomb, Kansas crime involved a third man who somehow escaped detection all those years ago and has now resurfaced. We're betting you won't sleep until the very last page!

Posted on Sep. 14, 2021 by Celeste Steward

Learn New Technology Skills at MI

Learning new technology skills is easy with your Mechanics' Institute library membership. Our librarians are available to answer technology questions Mondays-Wednesdays-Fridays from 12-4 pm and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-6 pm in the library or by phone at 415-393-0102. 

On the Library's website at www.milibrary.org, under the Events tab, you'll find two September workshops of interest. What's Streaming on Kanopy (plenty!) happens on Wednesday, September 1 from 7:00-8:00 pm. This free virtual class will show you how to explore and discover MI's Kanopy streaming service to find films, classes, documentaries, and more. We'll also show you how to set up Kanopy on your TV or mobile device. 

If you use a free email service and want to learn more, don't miss Email Basics on September 15 from 1:00-1:45 pm. This is an in-person workshop on the third floor of the Library in Classroom A. You'll learn how to compose an email message, organize your inbox effectively, filter out unwanted messages and much more. Both classes are led by staff Librarian Myles Cooper. 

If you're interested in learning online, there are several free or low cost teaching tools available to help. 

  • GetSetUp.io - This is one of the best online learning websites that partners with guides to provide training on tech tools for older adults. You'll find more than 350 online classes taught in real-time by retired teachers and tech industry experts. Most of the classes are free, however some charge a minimal fee. 

  • SeniorPlanet.org - Created and sponsored by national nonprofit OATS (Older Adults Technology Services) and AARP, Senior Planet offers 60-and-older adults a wide variety of free online courses, programs, and activities taught in real time to help seniors learn new technology skills. Some of the more popular tech classes include topics such as getting started on Zoom, using smartphones and introduction to social media. 

  • OasisEverywhere.org - This nonprofit educational organization for older adults provides low cost/free online computer, internet and mobile technology courses for beginners. 

  • TechBoomers.com - This free educational website provides video and article tutorials that teach adults how to navigate popular and trusted websites, such as Angie's List, Amazon, PayPal,and many others as well as basic technology skills, such as internet safety and internet privacy. 

Your MI membership allows access to public computers in the Library. If you want to bring your own device, the Library's wifi is free to members. Headsets are available for checkout on both the second and third floor service desks. 


Posted on Aug. 25, 2021 by Celeste Steward

Fall's Harvest of Book to Movie & TV Adaptations

If you enjoy reading the book before you view its movie or TV series adaptation, we have several exciting titles to get you started before fall. Here at MI Library, we also like to read first, then watch. As it happens, we've been busy staying on top of all the book-based films and series coming soon to theaters and television.  

One of the biggest surprises thus far has been the popularity of Netflix's Lupin, based on Maurice LeBlanc's 1905 series Ars̴ẽne Lupin, Gentleman Burglar. To say that Arsẽne Lupin, also known as Assane Diop on the Netflix show, is suave would be an understatement. He is handsome, debonair and devilishly charming. But it sure is fun to watch this consummate thief continuously outsmarting his would-be captors. Season 2 of Lupin began streaming on Netflix in June but there's still time to read The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsẽne Lupin before Season 3 starts streaming in late 2021. 

Filmmakers just can't resist another remake of Frank Herbert's science fiction novel Dune. If you haven't read this 1966 classic, there's plenty of time to check it out from MI Library before Dune: Part One arrives in theaters this fall. The series begins in a far off future on a distant planet, where Paul Atriedes plans to take his family's business empire to the next level. In 1984, Dune was adapted into a film by director David Lynch. The 2021 movie, directed by Denis Villanueve  stars Timothẽe Chalamet, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, and Charlotte Rampling. 

Another highly anticipated film coming this fall is The Last Duel, based on the book by the same name by Eric Jager. In 1386, Jean de Carrouges, a Norman knight returns from combat in Scotland to to find his wife, Marguerite accusing Jacques Le Gris, her husband's old friend and fellow courtier, of brutally raping her. Based on  true events, the knight takes his cause before the teenage King Charles VI, the highest judge in France. Amid Le Gris's vociferous claims of innocence and doubts about the now pregnant Marguerite's charges (and about the paternity of her child), the deadlocked court decrees a "trial by combat" that leaves her fate, too, in the balance. The movie adaptation stars Ben Affleck, Adam Driver and Matt Damon. The Last Duel is scheduled to be released in theaters this October. 

Fashion fans who read Sara Gay Forden's The House of Gucci will not want to miss this fall's upcoming film by the same name. This 2001 true crime story chronicles the rollercoaster ride of Maurizio Gucci, from Guccio Gucci's leather shop in the early 1900s to the Investscorp takeover of the multimillion dollar corporation in 1993 and Maurizio's 1995 murder by his ex-wife. The new film stars Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Salma Hayek, and Jared Leto. 

The movie we're most excited about is Nightmare Alley, based on William Lindsey Gresham's 1946 book by the same name. Gresham's psychological thriller about a circus performer's rise and fall was adapted into a haunting film by the same title in 1947 that starred Tyrone Power, whose stunning performance was not easily forgotten. Nightmare Alley's second adaptation will be directed by Guillermo del Toro, the 2017 Best Picture Oscar winner for The Shape of Water, and stars Bradley Cooper, Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett.   

Just in time for Halloween, MGM's Dark Harvest will arrive in theaters. Based on Norman Partridge's 2007 Bram Stoker award-winning novel by the same name, the story is set in a small Midwestern town on Halloween, 1963. Each year, the October boy, also known as Sawtooth Jack emerges from the cornfields holding a butcher knife with evil intent. The town's teenage boys eagerly await the chance to face this legendary nightmare. For Pete McCormick, one such  teenager facing what he considers to be a dead-end fate in a one-horse town, killing the October Boy and winning the annual prize presents the ticket to his escape. But before the terrifying night is over, Pete will discover the awful secret of the October boy.

Posted on Aug. 5, 2021 by Celeste Steward

"Twilight Zone" Reading

A colleague recently suggested I read a memoir by a female astrophysicist. I hesitated. Biographies fall into my "twilight zone" of reading choices as they push me past my literary comfort place. To be fair, I skimmed the first page of The Smallest Lights in the Universe. I immediately fell under the spell cast by author Sara Seager's description of rogue planets in search of a solar system to call home. This 2020 title opened a galactic-sized hole of thrilling information about the current state of deep space research. By the last page I could hear whispers of Albert Einstein's famous quote, "God does not play dice with the universe." 

Fortunately, I am not alone in the sea of readers who wander into books outside their comfort zones. MI staff members continue to be voracious readers. Three of my colleagues recently shared their literary "twilight zone" experiences -- that place where you didn't expect insight but came away forever changed.

MI Staff member #1:

"Most romance novels defeat me. Any book, story, or movie where the main focus is romantic love bores me. Then, on a friend's recommendation, I picked Georgette Heyer's regency romance, Cousin Kate, started reading, and could not put it down. Maybe it's because it upended the usual gothic plot of a young woman falling in love with the moody, handsome heir of an estate. The novel does not assume that women are obligated to reclaim monsters, even very beautiful monsters."

MI staff member #2::

"I just read a book that rocked my world, Blazing Guns on the Chisholm Trail. This is the pulp Western by Borden Chase that was the basis for the film Red River, starring John Wayne and a young, chiseled Montgomery Clift. I am not a fan of the genre, but the cover grabbed my attention and the first paragraph was stunning. With terse yet vivid prose, I was instantly transported to the wide seat of a Conestoga wagon as it "lurched along the flatlands" of the Texas frontier. Blazing Guns is about a cattle drive, about love, and what it means to be a man in the post-Civil War frontier. The emotions portrayed in the story are tautly concealed but sharp enough to drive the story [and the cattle] home."

MI staff member #3:

"One book that comes readily to mind is The Poisonwood Bible. A friend highly recommended it. After the first 10 pages, I was ready to give up as I just couldn't understand from whose viewpoint the story unfolded. But I kept at it and finally it began to make sense. Once I figured out who was who and whose voice was telling the story, I was completely engaged and could hardly wait to finish it."

If you're looking for your next great read, visit Mechanics' Institute's Book Chat discussion group on Goodreads. You'll find staff recommendations galore and more.

Posted on Jul. 28, 2021 by Celeste Steward

MI Chess Director Named Organizer of the Year

This past year has presented a new challenge for the Mechanics' Institute (MI) Chess Department as well as the general chess community, with over-the-board activities halted due to mandated closures. Nevertheless, despite COVID-19 restrictions for in-person contact and the shelter-in-place order, there was a bright spot: virtual chess. The MI Chess team took this challenge head-on and created online opportunities for chess instruction and competition, as well as social events. 

Recently, MI Chess Director Abel Talamantez received word that he was the 2021 recipient of the U.S. Chess Federation's Organizer of the Year Award. Each year, this prestigious award is bestowed upon a member of the chess community who organizes and hosts events at the national and international levels, such as the 2020-2021 Pan-American Intercollegiate Championship (January, 2021), U.S. Amateur Team West Championship (January, 2021), U.S. Junior Chess Congress (April, 2021), and the International Club Team Matches (February, 2021. This is the second time an MI staff member has received the U.S. Chess Federation award. In 2017, Dr. Judit Sztaray, General Manager of MI's Youth Outreach and Events won the Organizer of the Year Award. 

Besides the honor and prestige of this latest award, Talamantez believes that recognition such as this helps to "bring chess out of the box" by gathering people together in a positive way and fostering a strong sense of community. With this mission-driven purpose, he spends his time teaching chess strategy while promoting other hidden benefits of the game, including critical thinking skills, learning from mistakes, sportsmanship, and the satisfaction of being part of a larger community. 

Over this past year, the MI Chess Club has been busier than ever, nimbly moving to a pandemic-enforced online environment, hosting virtual games, matches, tournaments, and classes on its live chess Twitch channel. Under Talamantez' leadership, MI has hosted matches with other historic chess clubs, including the Zurich Chess Club (1807), Hamburg Chess Club (1830), Edinburgh Chess Club (1822), and Royal Dutch Chess Club (1852). This was significant as these clubs are the four oldest continuously-operating chess clubs in the world, with the Mechanics’ Institute (1854) being fifth.

Talamantez has also organized several special events, such as the Thompson Family Foundation (sponsored by Golden State Warrior Klay Thompson's family in March 2021) and the San Francisco Scholastic Chess Championship (sponsored by AO Dragge Foundation in March 2021). Sponsored events such as these enable more students to compete, thus making chess accessible for all and that is Talamantez' mission - inclusiveness for all.  "Organizing community and special events are what give me the most pleasure," says Talamantez. "Outreach into the community has enormous value. Chess brings people together in a good way, and that is truly important."


Posted on Jul. 19, 2021 by Celeste Steward

San Francisco On Screen

It's easy to fall in love with San Francisco. The city is a cornucopia of iconic sights: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Fort Point, Coit Tower, and so many other landmarks. With an aura born of Gold Rush history and steeped in mid-20th century turbulence, it's little wonder the City by the Bay has become a visual and atmospheric staple for the film industry. Setting a cinematic mood with such unique locations and memorable views is unparalleled.

A popular choice for filmmakers, San Francisco is also home to Mechanics' Institute Library, with its large collection of both classic and modern films shot on location in the city. We hope you'll enjoy this staff-curated selection of films available for checkout either on DVD or through the library's Kanopy streaming service. Each movie serves up San Francisco at its finest, including several locations -- Playland, Candlestick Park, the Embarcadero Freeway and the Orange Grove Restaurant -- long gone but not forgotten. 

Note: If you'd like to know more about Kanopy, don't miss our July 19 workshop on how to use this wonderful resource to find classic films, documentaries and classes on demand. 

Bullitt - Shot almost entirely on location in San Francisco, this 1968 film stars Steve McQueen and Jacqueline Bissett. Police detective Lieutenant Frank Bullitt is assigned to protect an important police witness in a mob investigation. The famous Mustang and Dodge Charger car scene that took two weeks to film runs from Bernal Heights past Potrero Hill, North Beach, Russian Hill, all the way to Brisbane. But that's not all, this is a classic film featuring a wide swath of San Francisco sights, including the Mark Hopkins Hotel, Grace Cathedral, San Francisco General Hospital and more.  

Dark Passage - A man unjustly accused of killing his wife escapes from San Quentin and sets out to clear his name. This 1947 noir classic stars Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart and is based on the novel by the same name written by David Goodis. Filming locations that contributed to this atmospheric record of mid-century San Francisco include the Waldo Tunnel and Golden Gate Bridge, the Pickwick Hotel on 5th Street, San Quentin Prison and the Filbert Street Steps on Telegraph Hill. 

Dirty Harry - Clint Eastwood's role as Harry Callahan, a hard-boiled San Francisco cop who delivers vigilante-style justice elevated him to iconic status. This 1971 movie about the hunt for a psychopath who kidnaps a young girl was a huge box-office hit that spawned four sequels: Magnum Force in 1973, The Enforcer in 1976, Sudden Impact in 1983, and The Dead Pool in 1988. Directed by Don Siegel, viewers will see glimpses of Montgomery Street in the Financial District, Saints Peter and Paul Church in North Beach, the Holiday Inn Chinatown (now the Hilton Financial Center), and the Mayor's Office at the City Hall in Civic Center. 

Experiment in Terror - Based on the 1961 book Operation Terror, a bank teller is terrorized by a psychopath to steal money from her employer. This 1962 film starring Lee Remick has shots of Varni's Roaring Twenties, George Washington High School, the former Orange Grove Restaurant (now the Crocker Galleria across from Mechanics' Institute), and a breathless view of the former Bay Bridge as the movie opens. The exciting finale features a showdown at Candlestick Park. 

Foul Play - In this 1978 comedy charmer, a shy San Francisco librarian (Goldie Hawn) and a clumsy detective (Chevy Chase) fall in love as they attempt to solve a crime involving dwarfs, albinos, and the Catholic church in a plot to kill the pope. The fast-paced chase scenes take viewers on a whirlwind tour of Noe Valley, the Mission District, Hayes Valley, and Pacific Heights. There is also footage of Fort Mason, the Presidio and Golden Gate National Park. 

The House on Telegraph Hill - Based on the 1948 thriller The Frightened Child by Dana Lyon, a Polish survivor of a World War II concentration camp assumes the identity of a fellow inmate who died shortly before liberation. She settles in San Francisco and pretends to be the mother to her late friend's son who was too young to recognize the deception. Viewers will be treated to scenes of the cliff-hanging Julius Castle Restaurant, the Crocker Building (now the Aetna Building) at One Post Street and the base of Coit Tower. 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978 - This remake of the 1956 science fiction classic set in a small Southern California town was moved to San Francisco where a majority of the movie was filmed. Starring Donald Sutherland and Jeff Goldblum, the story follows an endangered alien life form that sends out spores from a doomed world in search of a new home. Scary stuff, yes, but viewers will enjoy shots of Pier 33, Beppino's Restaurant, the Condor Club, and Lafayette Park in Pacific Heights and more. 

Lady From Shanghai - This 1948 noir classic starring Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth tells the story of a sailor who becomes involved in the murderous intrigue of a disabled lawyer and his homicidal wife. The film has shots of the old Steinhart Aquarium pre-renovation, the Walhalla Bar at 201 Bridgeway (currently vacant) and an iconic climactic scene at now defunct Playland Fun House. 

The Penalty (Streams on Kanopy) - Lon Chaney's first major role starring in this 1920 silent film introduced the "Man of a Thousand Faces" to a national audience. Originally based on a 1913 serialized novel by Governeur Morris, director Wallace Worsley chose to skip the story's sentimental style and create a movie emphasizing lust, murder and corruption. Chinatown, the Old Hall of Justice on Kearny Street, St. Mary's Hospital, and the Financial District appear in the movie. 

Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home - A considerable portion of this 1986 film was shot in San Francisco and it is kind of thrilling to imagine that Starfleet's 20th-century headquarters might be based in Golden Gate Park. Branded as fugitives by the Federation they swore to protect, the crew of the USS Enterprise returns to Earth to face crimes committed while trying to rescue Spock. Enterprise crew actors can be seen walking on Marina Boulevard, Marina Green Park, and Kearny, Pacific and Columbus streets. There's also a quick pass across Grant Avenue as well. 

Sudden Fear (Streams on Kanopy) - Joan Crawford and Jack Palance were both nominated for Oscars in this 1952 film noir gem about a wealthy female playwright who marries an actor to discover later that he's planning her demise with the help of his lover (Gloria Grahame). You'll find thrilling footage of the city, including Lombard Street, War Memorial Opera House, The Tamalpais apartments on Russian Hill and the Palace of the Legion of Honor. Also available for check out on DVD. 

Thieves' Highway - If you've ever wondered what the area around Embarcadero Center used to look like before it was built, this 1949 movie will show you the old Produce district south of Market. Ex-G.I. Nick Garcos (Richard Conte) sets out to avenge his father's tormentor, a ruthless produce merchant. But as Nick is drawn into the San Francisco produce racket, he lands in a web of treachery and heartbreak. Shot in just 30 days, this excellent film features footage of Embarcadero under the Bay Bridge and near China Basin as well as the Ferry Building. 

Walk a Crooked Mile - This 1948 documentary-narrated style film tapped into the 'red scare' paranoia that reached its heights during the McCarthy era. The movie begins as a young FBI agent investigating leaks of atomic information from a nuclear research laboratory is killed and his boss follows the murder suspect to San Francisco. Viewers will recognize many familiar locations including Union Square, Chinatown and Yerba Buena Island. 

Woman on the Run - Directed by Norman Foster, the majority of this 1950 film noir was shot in San Francisco. After witnessing a gangland execution, a man goes into hiding. Police stalk his wife hoping she'll lead them to her husband whose testimony could bring down a crime kingpin. There is much to discover in terms of historic views -- the Top O' the Mark, the Emporium at 845 Market between 4th and 5th, Pioneer Park, Pier 43 with shots of Laughing Sal -- to name a few. This film streams on Kanopy (click on the link to access from our website) and is the only American print of the one that burned in a 2008 fire, now rescued and restored to its original luster. 

Zodiac - (Streams on Kanopy) This 2007 crime thriller about the real Zodiac killer who terrorized San Francisco with a string of random murders during the 1960s and 1970s features an all star cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. While the search for the killer's true identity was a long and tortuous journey, viewers won't have to wait for glimpses of  Morti's Bar on Minna Street, The San Francisco Chronicle newsroom and other Bay Area locations. Also available for check out on DVD


Posted on Jul. 6, 2021 by Celeste Steward

Meet Lindsey Tonsager, BOT President

Lindsey Tonsager has been on the Mechanics' Institute Board of Trustees since 2016. She is currently the President of the Board of Trustees and previously served as Corporate Secretary and on the Program, Library, Governance, and Audit Committees. An attorney and partner at Covington and Burling LLC, Lindsey co-chairs the firm’s global data privacy and cybersecurity practice.

What attracted you to Mechanics' Institute and what do you enjoy most about the MI community?

My family moved to San Francisco from Washington, D.C. in 2014 so that I could expand the firm’s privacy and cybersecurity practice to the West Coast. Working with companies across the technology, entertainment, financial services, and life sciences industries, it was exhilarating to arrive in the Bay Area and be at the center of so much global innovation and technological progress. But at the same time I struggled to find a cultural and historical connection to the city.

When my colleague and fellow Trustee David Goodwin took me on a tour of the Mechanics’ Institute and recounted the organization’s fascinating history of helping miners retool their trade after the Gold Rush, holding fairs for inventors, acting as the precursor to the University of California education system, and serving as a chess, artistic, and cultural hub in the heart of downtown – I was hooked. I felt like I had finally found the soul of San Francisco. 

It is the diversity and curiosity of the membership that I enjoy most.  Outside on the sidewalk people walk by glued to the screens of their phones, but within the library, chess room, and our event spaces, our members are coming together to debate local issues, collaborate on their writing, launch startups, play chess, knit together, and enjoy one another’s company.  That such a community can thrive in the middle of downtown is so special!

Online privacy is a topic of great interest to our members these days. Do you have any advice to help folks protect their privacy online?

Privacy is an inherently personal thing. Some people enjoy sharing their photos publicly with the world, while others prefer to share only with a small group of family and friends.  Decide what information you care to keep private and seek out online services that provide you the controls and privacy settings you expect.   

Do you like to read novels featuring lawyers (there are lots!) as protagonists? If not, what kinds of books and authors capture your attention?

The best thing about books is that you get to explore a bit of everything!  I started an herb garden while stuck at home over the pandemic and have been wanting to plant some succulents as well, so I’ve been paging through a number of different gardening books. I also have started re-reading all the Nancy Drew books with my daughter. (Nancy Drew’s father is a lawyer, so I guess that counts as novels featuring lawyers.) I came across Patrick Henry’s Speech during the Virginia Convention clearing out some old textbooks recently, so now I’m re-reading some of The Federalist Papers. I’m also reading The Plague by Albert Camus because it seemed appropriate for the times, and I can’t put down This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth, who I’m interviewing for our Tech and the City event on July 8th.  I guess you could say a little bit of everything captures my attention!  

When you have a free moment, what activities do you enjoy outside of work?

Being outdoors or playing video games with my family.


Posted on Jun. 28, 2021 by Celeste Steward

Road Trip Reads

There's nothing quite like driving an open road on a sunny day to set your mind at ease. Once the bags are packed, the destination charted, and the vehicle readied, the adventure can begin. Let's not forget the audiobooks! For travel companions with different reading tastes, finding that perfect listening experience might require a little work and advice. Luckily, we're all ears at Mechanics' Institute, and we have a list of engaging audiobooks on CD or digital download to pair well with your journey.  

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, read by Norman Dietz - Mark Twain's classic story about the adventures of a 19th-century boy and a runaway slave on a raft down the Mississippi River is all the more delightful when read by Norman Dietz. Known for his quiet grandfatherly storytelling, Dietz' 11-hour performance will make Twain's powerful lessons slide down as easily as a spoonful of sugar. 

The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman, read by George Guidall - Hillerman's atmospheric mystery with Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn as he investigates an eerie crime scene devoid of useful clues will chill you to the bone. The evil is palpable as Guidall's rich baritone narration leads listeners perilously through mysticism and murder. With a length of less than 7 hours, this digital audiobook is perfect for a shorter outing.

The Boys in the Boat: nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown, read by Edward Hermann - A remarkable story made even richer for its telling by actor Edward Hermann. Based on true events, Hermann's flawless reading lends a noble air to this meticulously researched story about a rowing team that transformed the sport and attracted worldwide attention. Nearly 15 hours in length, this audiobook on CD is best savored on an extended trip with the family.   

Circe by Madeline Miller, read by Perdita Weeks - For mythology fans, the story of Circe, daughter of the sun god Helios, unfolds like a sumptuous fairy tale for adults. In Greek mythology, Circe is a sorceress able to turn humans into wolves, lions and swine. This reading by British actress Perdita Weeks flows seamlessly between male and female voices and is full of raw emotion, giving it an intimate tone. Listeners will be spellbound for 12 magical hours. 

The Help by Kathryn Stockett, read by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer and Cassandra Campbell - With its stunning cast of characters and historical angle, it is easy to understand why this book translated so well into film. This outstanding audio production transports the listener back to 1962, a time when the relationships between white middle-class women and their black maids reflected the larger issues of racial upheaval in Jackson, Mississippi. The reading evokes a warm conversation around the kitchen table feeling and the characters are so authentically portrayed, listeners will be left wanting more. At 18 hours, this winning title is a roundtrip ticket.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, read by the author - Bourdain shares the good, the bad and the ugly of what goes on behind kitchen doors. If you're looking for an amusing companion for an all-day road trip, Bourdain is a no-nonsense narrator who shares all, including the gritty culinary details and the four-letter words. A humorous memoir that may not be everyone's cup of tea. But if so, you might want to pack your own picnic lunch instead of stopping for a restaurant meal. 

Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March, read by Vikas Adam - March's novel of Bombay in 1892 shines under actor Vikas Adam's engaging narration. His Indian accent and ability to switch easily between voices and dialect inflections carries this story of divided loyalties and murder in colonial India smoothly along. For fans of Downton Abbey, this 16-hour digital audiobook is best reserved for a longer journey.

24: life lessons and stories from the Say Hey Kid by John Shea, read by Bob Costas, Julian McWilliams and Larry Herron - A spectacular book that will transport listeners to a different era. The audio production, read in a tag-team narration by media giant Bob Costas, sportswriter Julian McWilliams and actor Larry Herron weaves seamlessly through Mays' stories, off- and on-the-field anecdotes interspersed with brief pieces of advice and mini-mantras from the baseball great himself. If you're looking for seasonal family entertainment about one of the finest baseball players ever, this is an 11-hour long home run of a performance.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, read by Bahni Turpin - A Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that follows a young slave's journey as she makes her way to freedom in the Antebellum South. Read by actress Bahni Turbin, this powerful story mesmerizes as the narrator shifts easily between ages, races and accents with a large cast of characters. She handles the nuances of dialect carefully and avoids caricature. A moving 11-hour performance that will keep you engaged to the end of your trip. 


Posted on Jun. 2, 2021 by Celeste Steward

Beach Reads

After a rollercoaster of a year, book-based television series and films have ramped up this spring. Now that the Library is open for more hours, we can help you stockpile some fabulous beach reads for the summer. For those who like to read first and watch later, here's a list of the books we're most excited about reading and viewing in our summer leisure time:

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage - To escape the daily grind of city life, a young couple move to an old farmhouse in upstate New York with their young daughter. What they hope to be an idyllic country life quickly turns dark--the marriage begins to implode and the house is haunted. The film version of Brundage's 2016 mystery, entitled Things Heard and Seen, is streaming now on Netflix.

Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith - In a quiet suburban town, a woman trapped in a loveless marriage takes on a series of lovers. When one of her former lovers turns up dead, her jealous husband invents a tall tale portraying himself as the killer. Highsmith's 1957 psychological thriller gets a makeover in a new film starring Ben Affleck and scheduled to be released this August.

The Dry by Jane Harper - After receiving a note demanding his presence, federal agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown to attend the funeral of his best friend Luke. His return opens up a decades-old wound--the unsolved death of a teenage girl. A chilling story set in a drought-stricken Australian town that will keep readers on edge. The film adaptation of this 2017 novel by the same name is scheduled to air in the U.S. later this month. 

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff - A college graduate takes a clerical job working for a fading literary agency of the reclusive J. D. Salinger. The observant Rakoff has written a spellbinding memoir set in the pre-digital world of 1990s New York City and readers will likely fall in love with  Salinger all over again. The film by the same name starring Sigourney Weaver is streaming now on Netflix. 

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta - A teenage murder witness is hidden at a survival camp in the Montana wilderness and the killers have tracked him there. Now everyone's life is at risk including the camp's owners, Air Force veteran Ethan Serbin and his wife Allison. Koryta's 2014 page-turner is the perfect companion for an afternoon by the pool. The film by the same name starring Angelina Jolie, Tyler Perry and directed by Yellowtone's Taylor Sheridan streams on HBO later this month. 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead - This highly anticipated 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a female slave making her way to freedom on the actual Underground Railroad premieres this month as a TV series with the same title on Amazon Prime. Whitehead's inventive novel also won the National Book Award in 2016 and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction in 2017. Also available as an eBook and in Large Print format. 

Without Remorse by Tom Clancy - During Richard Nixon's first term as president, recently widowed Vietnam vet and underwater demolition expert John Kelly befriends a woman with a checkered past. With a plot more complex than a rabbit warren, Clancy's 1993 action thriller delivers political intrigue, counter-terrorism, military manuevers and satisfying revenge in spades. Hopefully, Clancy fans won't be disappointed when the novel gets a facelift in the film adaptation by the same name and stars Michael B. Jordan on Amazon Prime. 

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn - A mysterious accident leaves psychologist Anna Fox with a severe case of agoraphobia. Months spent drinking merlot, popping pills and spying on neighbors have begun to play tricks on Anna, or have they? When a new family moves in next door, Anna witnesses something so horrific she isn't sure it's real. Crackling with tension, Finn's 2018 novel unfolds in a confiding and breezy narration. Readers will be captivated and won't want to miss the film adaptation starring Amy Adams and Julianne Moore streaming now on Netflix. Also available as an eBook and as a book on CD

Posted on May. 20, 2021 by Celeste Steward

Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and we're celebrating the many cultures and stories within the AAPI community with books by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage and their cultures. 

All titles are available for check-out either in the library or through the "To Go" contactless pickup service. Where indicated, select titles are available as a downloadable eBook or eAudiobook from MI's website. 

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan - During a summer vacation in the humble Singapore home of the boy she hopes to marry, native New Yorker Rachel Chu meets her prospective in-laws, who strongly oppose their son's relationship with a Chinese American girl. Kwan's 2013 debut novel was adapted into a film by the same name in 2018. Also available as an eBook and as a book on CD

Dear Girls: intimate tales, untold secrets, & advice for living your best life by Ali Wong - Comedian, actress and writer Wong delivers wisecracking wisdom in a series of letters to her daughters. A down-to-earth collection that is blatantly honest but not overtly irreverent. 

Exhalation by Ted Chiang - An outstanding collection of short stories that explore humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity.`

A Good Fall by Ha Jin - A National Book Award winner delivers a collection of short stories that delve into the experiences of Chinese immigrants in America.

Fairest: a memoir by Meredith Talusan - A journalist tells the story of how she came to terms with a complex identity that forced her to navigate issues of gender, race and class. Born in the Philippines, Talusan is a transgender Filipino American person with albinism. Also available as an eBook. 

The Farm by Joanne Ramos - A dystopian novel about surrogate mothers who reside on a luxurious secret facility bearing children for wealthy would-be mothers. The surrogates are mostly immigrant females needing a place to live and the enormous payoff from bearing a full-term child. Ramos' compelling novel raises crucial questions about women and class. 

Heart of Fire: an immigrant daughter's story by Mazie K. Horono - The life story of the first Asian American woman and only immigrant in the Senate. 

In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar - A stunning debut collection of short stories that explores the Filipino diaspora in the Middle East and America. 

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu - Winner of the 2020 National Book Award, Charles Yu recently appeared in this year's Bay Area Book Festival to discuss his novel about race, pop culture, assimilation and escaping the roles Asian Americans are forced to play. Also available as an eAudiobook

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See - A thoughtful story about an all-female diving collective off the Korean island of Jeju. The divers, called haenyeo, collect seaweed, shellfish, and other seafood and struggle with the damages of World War II, the Korean War and the era of cell phones and wet suits for these women. Also available as an eBook

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan - This 1989 story about four Chinese American families in San Francisco who start a club known as The Joy Luck Club, playing the Chinese game of mahjong for money while feasting on a variety of foods. In 1993, the book was adapted into a film by the same name.  

Know My Name by Chanel Miller - This is more than a memoir of the 2015 case in which Brock Turner was sentenced to six months for sexually assaulting a woman on the Stanford University campus. The victim, Chanel Miller, previously described in the media as ''Emily Doe" writes eloquently about the traumatic experience, including the isolation and shame she felt in the aftermath of the trial. Miller's words will transform the way we think about sexual assault and challenge beliefs about what is acceptable. 

Not Quite Not White: losing and finding race in America by Sharmila Sen - A former Harvard professor ruminates on race in America from her perspective as a Southeast Asian woman. Timely and eloquent, Sen's work is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature about race in America. 

Notes of a Desolate Man by Zhu Tianwen - Winner of the coveted China Times Novel Prize, this postmodern, first-person tale of a contemporary Taiwanese gay man reflecting on his life, loves and intellectual influences is among the most important recent novels in Taiwan.

Offerings by Michael Byjungju Kim - With the rapidly cascading Asian financial crisis threatening to go global and Korea in imminent meltdown, investment banker Dae Joon finds himself back in his native Seoul as part of an international team brought in to rescue the country from sovereign default. 

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong - Vietnamese American poet Vuong (Night Sky With Exit Wounds), is making a second debut with this 2019 novel written as a letter from a young boy to his illiterate mother in an attempt to make sense of his traumatic beginnings. A gifted writer, Vuong's latest foray into fiction is being adapted into a film, release date not yet scheduled.  

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza - A powerful story about an American Muslim family struggling with tradition and modernity as they plan a wedding for their daughter. 

Please Look After Mom by Shin Kyung-Sook - A mother disappears in a Seoul subway, forcing family members to revisit their feelings and treatment of the woman who sacrificed much for her husband and children. A bestselling author in South Korea, Shin was the first woman to win the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2011 for Please Look After Mom. 

White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht - During World War II, two Korean sisters enjoy independence as haenyeo, deep sea divers off Jeju Island. Until one day when the older sister tries to save her younger sibling from a Japanese soldier and she herself is captured and sent as a "comfort woman" in a Japanese military brothel. An unforgettable story about the Korean women prostituted by Japanese soldiers during World War II, a controversy that still persists today. 

Posted on May. 6, 2021 by Celeste Steward