Staff Picks/DVD Selections | Mechanics' Institute

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Staff Picks/DVD Selections

New Titles List for the Week of August 6


Jonas Jonasson Hitman Anders & the meaning of it all
Chico Buarque My German brother
Wolfgang Hilbig The tidings of the trees

Mystery, Suspense, Espionage & Intrigue
Nicholas Irving Reaper: ghost target

Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror
Muriel Barbery The life of elves
Kristen Simmons Pacifica

Short Stories
Jamel Brinkley A lucky man
Akil Kumarasamy Half gods

* * * * *

Applied Sciences
Amy Shira Teitel Breaking the chains of gravity: the story of spaceflight before NASA 629.409 T235

Arts, Architecture & Crafts
Gustav Klimt: the complete paintings 709.2 K648na
Robert J. Lang Origami design secrets: mathematical methods for an ancient art 736.982 L271or
Charles O'Brien Houses: an architectural guide 720 O62
Alex Potts Experiments in modern realism: world-making, politics & the everyday in postwar European & American art 759.06 P857
Arlene Sanderson (editor) Wright sites: a guide to Frank Lloyd Wright public places 720.92 W94sa

Business & Economics
Dawn Fotopulos Accounting for the numberphobic: a survival guide for small business owners 657.9042 F82
Richard Striner Hard times: economic depressions in America 338.54 S862
Henry A. Rosso Hank Rosso's Achieving excellence in fund raising 658.152 R737

Don Schultz Chessdon: forty years of my most interesting chess experiences 794.1092 S3871
Adorjan Andras Black is back! 794.1 A24b
Leonid Verkhovsky Draw!: the art of the half-point in chess 794.15 V589

Computer Science
Rob Miller Text processing with Ruby: extract value from the data that surrounds you 005.1 R89m

Food & Drink
Deirdre Greene The half-pint guide to craft breweries: Northern California 663.42 G799

Health & Medicine
Mark Green The Tai chi healing Bible: a step-by-step guide to achieving physical & mental balance 613.71 G820
Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre Yoga 613.7 Y546

Herrick Chapman France's long reconstruction: in search of the modern republic 944.082 C366
A.H.M. Jones Constantine & the conversion of Europe 937.08 J710
Pieter M. Judson The Habsburg empire: a new history 943.6 J921

Home & Family Management
Jane Jacobs The death & life of great American cities 711.4 J175 2011
Vital little plans: the short works of Jane Jacobs 711.4 J175v

Natural Sciences & Mathematics
Matthew J. James Collecting evolution: the Galapagos expedition that vindicated Darwin 508.866 J231
Omar W. Nasim Observing by hand: sketching the nebulae in the nineteenth century 523.1135 N178

Philosophy, Psychology & Religion
Chang Po-tuan Understanding reality: a Taoist alchemical classic 299.51 Z632
Andrew Newberg Words can change your brain: 12 conversation strategies to build trust, resolve conflict & increase intimacy 153.6 N534

Politics & Government
Stephanie Feldman (editor) Who will speak for America? 320.973 F312
Dmitri Trenin Should we fear Russia? 327.47 T723

Social Sciences & Current Events
Alice Bolin Dead girls: essays on surviving American obsession 305.4097 B638
Nikki Jones The chosen ones: Black men & the politics of redemption 305.388 J710
Tania Romanov Mother tongue: a saga of three generations of Balkan women 306.8743 R662
Arlene Stein Unbound: transgender men & the remaking of identity 306.76 S8191

Travel & Geography
Hermann Hesse Singapore dream & other adventures: travel writings from an Asian journey 915.904 H463

* * * * *


Ellen Oh (editor) Flying lessons & other stories Child Oh

* * * * *

Emily Giffin All we ever wanted CD Fic Giffin

* * * * *

Isle of dogs

Love, Simon

God's own country
I, Daniel Blake
Night & the city

Foreign Language
Thérèse DVD French

Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror
A quiet place
A wrinkle in time

* * * * *


It Comes at Night

Posted on Aug. 9, 2018 by Cherilyn Banson

Funny Films: DVD/Blu-ray Display

Need a laugh? At Mechanics’ we have an extensive collection of funny films ranging from silent comedies of the early 20th century to recent releases of today. Visit the Funny Films display on the 2nd Floor and take home a DVD or Blu-ray that will make you laugh out loud! Below are staff favorites from the display.

Steven recommends:
The Twelve Chairs- Less well known Mel Brooks film about a couple of con men racing against a corrupt priest to find a cache of jewels hidden in a chair in 1920s Russia. Brooks made a career out of making tribute films to parody the tropes and conventions of a given genre. This one takes on screwball comedies of the kind Frank Capra and Blake Edwards made.  Stars a very young Frank Langella.

Spaceballs- This time Brooks parodies the "space opera" genre including the Star  Wars movies and many more. Some of the best "4th wall" scenes ever  ("breaking the 4th wall" includes such devices as having a character address the audience directly or the action spilling over to the other side of the camera).

High Fidelity- An adaptation of a Nick Hornby book changes the venue to Chicago and the characters to Americans including John and Joan Cusak, Jack Black and Tim Robbins.  A record store owner recounts his top five breakups. The funniest parts happen every time Cusak addresses the audience directly.

Taryn recommends:
Dress to Kill- My favorite Izzard stand-up just because it is set in San Francisco and I love all things cable car.

Marx Brothers TV Collection-Tons of rare, hilarious stuff in this collection and a MUST WATCH if you're
a Marx Brothers fan.

The Bank Dick- Master of the one liner, W.C. Fields is the father of modern comedy - watch
his body language!

Monsieur's Hulot's holiday- A comedy with almost no words? Yes Tati shows its possible in this endearing
slapstick with effortlessly choreographed gags. The first entry in the Hulot series and the film that launched its Tati to international stardom.

Merry says, “I like a lot of old stuff: Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Marx Brothers, and Laurel & Hardy. The film “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” is chock full of the best comedians and comedic actors of the 20th Century. And Monty Python is always good for a laugh!”

Myles says, “Christopher Guest is filmmaker who is best known for his mockumentary style of storytelling pioneered by his work with Rob Reneir on This Is Spinal Tap. He co-wrote the film and played guitarist Nigel Tufnel. Guest’s unrehearsed style of filmmaking involves using many of the same actors in each film. He encourages actors to use improvisational comedy techniques allowing them to add off-script dialog and storylines as their scenes unfold. Although Guest writes, directs, and plays the central character in many of his films, he enjoys the editing process the most, taking pleasure in cutting down hundreds of hours of film in post-production to 90 minutes. Actors that commonly appear in his films include Parker Posie, Fred Willard, Catherine O’Hara, Jane Lynch, Eugene Levy, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, and Jennifer Coolidge. Here at Mechanics’, we have This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration in our collection. I recommend them all! “

Posted on Jul. 30, 2018 by Myles Cooper

Dog Days

Are you a pet parent? Do you have a grumpy cat or playful pup in your life? Or, like me, do you somehow find yourself watch cat and dog videos on Youtube for hours on end? It's no secret that animals can provide stress relief and companionship in your life and coinciding with the dog days of summer, although here by the bay we don't get much of the lethargy inducing heat, this month's audiobook selections features an animal theme, from dogs and cats, to a famous whale and even a tiger.


A Dog's Heart by Mikhail Bulgakov CD Fic Bulgakov.

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome CD Fic Jerome.

Selected Shorts : A Celebration of the Short Story : Pets! CD SS P498.

The Cat Who Went Bananas by Lilian Jackson Brown CD Fic Braun.

James Herriot's Favorite Dog Stories CD 636.7 H567c.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville. CD Fic Melville.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris CD Fic Sedaris.

Animal Farm by George Orwell CD Fic Orwell.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel CD Fic Martel.



Dancing Dogs: Stories by Jon Katz.

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn.

A Nose for Justice by Rita Mae Brown.

The Cat Who Went Bananas by Lilian Jackson Braun.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

Posted on Jul. 15, 2018 by Sou Phetsomphou

Pride on Display

Pride on Display: DVD/ Blu-ray Display

Summer is Pride season in the Bay Area. With our big celebration in San Francisco happening  June 23rd and 24th, Mechanics’ would like to highlight selections from our collection that feature stories about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. In the last few years, we’ve seen greater representation of queer cinema in the mainstream. Below are recent films to hit the big screen, as well as staff favorites.

Carol (2015) - Director Todd Haynes  (Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven, I’m Not There) directs a screen adaptation  by Phyllis Nagy of The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. In Carol, an aspiring photographer working at a Manhattan department store, Therese Belivet, develops a fondness for Carol Aird, a wealthy shopper who leaves behind a pair of gloves. Both women are in relationships with men, and are forced to decide what to do with the new love between one another.

Imitation Game (2014) - Is the true story of Alan Turning, a brilliant cryptanalyst who decrypted German codes for the British during WWII. Although a hero of WWII, Turning was convicted on charges related to his sexuality and chemically castrated. Watch Benedict Cumberbatch brings to life a story that was once widely suppressed due to homophobia.

Call Me by Your Name (2017) - based on the novel by Andre Aciman, two Americans, a 17-year-old and a 24-year-old develop a friendship in Northern Italy. Oliver, the older graduate student, has a relationship with a woman, Mariza, but is attracted to Elio, the young American. Elio has a similar feeling towards Oliver, and the  two develop a relationship they must keep secret.

Danish Girl (2015) - based on the novel by David Ebershoff, The Danish Girl follows the life of one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery, painter Lili Elbe, played by Eddie Redmayne.

Moonlight (2016) - was the first LGBT film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. Moonlight follows the life of a boy growing up in housing projects of Miami Florida, as he moves through three stages of his life. A young boy Chiron becomes friends with a drug dealer Juan who senses the boy needs nurturing. Little discovers he is different after he meets love interest Terrel. The two form an uncommon relationship in their youth which ends in conflict. Years later the two meet again as men.

Craig recommends:  The Boys in the Band - Released in 1970, it was the first major-studio production to deal frankly with homosexuality and is a milestone in the history of American cinema. Every member of the show's original Broadway cast appears in the film, including Laurence Luckinbill as an out-of-the-closet husband and father.

Rhonda recommends: Another Country

Merry recommends: My Beautiful Launderette

Myles recommends: Paris Is Burning, La Cage aux Folles II, The Adventures of Pricilla Queen of the Desert, Moonlight, Carol, Torch Song Trilogy, and Behind the Candelabra.

Posted on Jun. 18, 2018 by Myles Cooper

And the Audie Award goes to...

Did you know that each year the Audio Publishers Association (APA) selects audiobooks for awards, just like the Oscars with films and the Grammy Awards with records? On May 31st, the APA announced the 2018 winners of the "Audie Awards." Our audiobook selections for June includes this year's winner, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, as well as the finalists from several categories.


Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (also available as an ebook)

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine : a novel by Gail Honeyman

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, written and narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson (ebook)

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (ebook)

This Fight is Our Fight : the battle to save America's middle class by Elizabeth Warren

A Legacy of Spies : a novel by John Le Carré (ebook)

Code girls : the untold story of the American women code breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy (ebook)

What Happened, written and narrated by Hillary Rodham Clinton (ebook)

Shattered : inside Hillary Clinton's doomed campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes


Please also take a look at our e-audiobooks collection on RBdigital!


Posted on May. 31, 2018 by Sou Phetsomphou

Bay Area Stories: DVD/Blu-ray Display

From the classic black and white suspense of Hitchcock to colorful, modern CGI films like Inside Out, writers love placing their stories in the Bay Area. Visit the 2nd Floor DVD/Blu-ray display to discover or revisit stories that take place in our beautiful Bay. Below are staff recommendations from the display:


Taryn recommends:


The Conversation - Gene Hackman is spectacular as surveillance "expert" in this mystery thriller. Watch it and see if you can find any parallels with today's political scene!


Bullitt - Steve McQueen is smoking hot (burning rubber!) as SFPD Lieutenant Frank Bullitt in this action filled, mob busting,  Mustang racing thriller. The car chase scene through the streets of San Francisco is regarded as one of the most influential in movie history.


Invasion of the Body Snatchers - Based on the book by local author Jack Finney, the 1978 film is a remake of one from 1956. Roger Ebert thought the plot had something to do with "something to do with Watergate and keeping tabs on those who are not like you" - what do you think?


Kristin recommends:


The Birdman of Alcatraz - A true story of a convicted killer who avoids the depths of despair by becoming an authority on birds during  his imprisonment.


Harold and Maude - A black comedy about a disturbed young man fascinated with death and funerals and his friendship with an eccentric and adventurous 80 year old lady. This film also has a great soundtrack by Cat Stevens!


Rhonda says “I have to say Bullitt and Vertigo are at the top of my list. But, the little campy film "So I married an Axe Murderer" has a scene filmed right outside my apartment in North Beach, circa 1993.”


Deb recommends Maltese Falcon and Dirty Harry.


Myles recommends:


Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)-  Mechanics’ librarian Lia recommended this film for a previous display, and I just got around to watching it. In Star Trek IV, the crew travels back to the 20th-Century San Francisco (from the 22nd-Century) to rescue two newborn humpback whales from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The hero of the film is a marine biologist. How cool is that? In need of family-friendly feel-good sci-fi? Look no further!


The Room (2003): is thought to be one of the best-worst movies ever made. Its production inspired the Disaster Artist (2017) with James Franco and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The Room is about Marina District banker who finds out his wife is cheating on him with his best friend. Part softcore porn, part unintentional comedy, part music video, the room was a passion project of writer, director, and San Francisco landlord Tommy Wiseau. The Room is famous for its ongoing media campaign, 15 years after its initial release, one can still find a giant “The Room” billboard on a building at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Posted on Apr. 29, 2018 by Myles Cooper

The Wrecking Crew: Music Display

The Wrecking Crew was an informal name given to a group of Los Angeles based studio musicians who played on countless popular music releases of the 1960s and early 1970s. Although these union musicians stationed at Gold Star Studios had jazz and classical backgrounds, in the hands of Phil Spector, they became the new sound of pop in his “Wall of Sound” playing on popular radio songs by the Crystals, the Ronettes, Ike & Tina Turner, and the Righteous Brothers. Before overdubbing allowed for layers of multiple takes, the Wrecking Crew provided the backing tracks for the Beach Boys, the Monkees, the Mama's and the Pappas, Sonny & Cher, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, and even television themes like that of M*A*S*H.

Did you know the late "Rhinestone Cowboy" Glen Campbell was a member of the Wrecking Crew? Stop by the display on Balcony 3A to discover recordings from this loose collective of Los Angeles' finest musicians.

Posted on Apr. 8, 2018 by Myles Cooper

Be Kind, and Please Rewind - 1980s Cinema on DVD

Be kind, and please rewind. Perhaps it has been a while since you’ve heard that phrase. Here at Mechanics’, we’d like to invite you to take a step back into the golden age of the VHS rental, with a display of 1980s favorites on DVD. Not only do you not have to worry about rewinding the tape this time around, our late fees at Mechanics’ are not as steep as the video rental palaces of yesteryear. So, swing by the 2nd Floor and rewind to the 80s. Below are a few staff picks from the display.


Taryn recommends:


The Blue Lagoon - Described by Siskel and Ebert as 1980's "dog of the year" this near soft porn film will keep you giggling, albeit breathlessly.

The French Lieutenant's Woman - Though the book was described as "unfilmable" because of its complex plot devices, this effort is more than admirable.


Craig recommends Tootsie - a 1982 drama/comedy, starring Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange. The film tells the story of a talented but volatile actor whose reputation for being difficult forces him to adopt a new identity as a woman in order to land a job. In desperation, he dresses as a woman, auditions as 'Dorothy Michaels', gets the part, and becomes a television sensation.


Rhonda says “I'm an 80's baby for sure so I remember just about everyone wearing acid-washed jackets and jeans! I had a black and gray Guess jacket, not to mention my feathered hairdo! One of my many fav 80's movies was Valley Girl the soundtrack was

everything! Not to mention Nicolas Cage's beach scene! Of course, you can't mention that movie without mentioning Fast Times at Ridgemont High. But, in all seriousness, I have to say Diner is still one of my all time favorite films.”


Joel recommends After HoursAn underrated black comedy about a yuppie named Paul trying to make his way home from his office job in Manhattan. His night becomes increasingly bizarre as he encounters a range of strange situations and individuals: angry cabbies, crazy ice cream dealers, burglars, mobsters, punks trying to shave his head, etc. It's a funny, strange, and unsettling movie that is very 1980s New York.

Lia recommends:

Ghostbusters – I loved the new Ghostbusters, but the original still holds the top spot in my heart.  It never fails to make me laugh, and I've probably seen it dozens of times.  I crack up every time they're spying on the ghost in the library and Ray says, "Listen! You smell something?"  Best watched while *not* eating eggs.

My other pick is Die Hard – the best Christmas movie out there!  Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman both give fantastic performances, and I just can't help but sympathize with poor John McClane, who's just got a bad headache.


Myles recommends:


Koyaanisqatsi - a beautiful art film by Godfrey Reggio with music from Philip Glass that contrasts the human impact on Earth with scenes of nature. “Koyaanisqatsi” is a Hopi word for unbalanced life. This experimental film has no dialog or plot, so if you’re in the mood for a high-brow 80s moment, check out Koyaanisqatsi.


Ghostbusters II - I love how this sequel opened. The heroes from the first film are no longer fighting ghosts. Their fifteen minutes of fame are up, and they’ve resorted to D-list work. Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson are now children’s birthday party entertainers, performing to a group of “ungrateful little yuppie larvae.” I remember watching this in the theater and finding the group’s fall from grace both hilarious and relatable.

Posted on Feb. 25, 2018 by Myles Cooper

Michael Tilson Thomas – CD Selections

In 2020, Michael Tilson Thomas will step down as Musical Director of San Francisco Symphony after 25 years. To pay tribute to the conductor, we’ve created a music CD display on 3A with titles that span “MTT’s” career including his work with London Symphony Orchestra and New World Symphony. MTT is known for championing  20th-century iconoclasts like Charles Ives, Steve Reich, and Morton Feldman. Mechanics’ is home to a large collection of 20th-century classical music, including pieces by these composers conducted by MTT. Stop by our new display on 3A and reflect on MTT’s career.


Did you know CDs can be enjoyed in the library? We have portable CD players and headphones one can check out from the 3rd Floor Information Desk.


Posted on Feb. 11, 2018 by Myles Cooper

Less Than 24 Hours to a New You!

With the welcoming of a new year, we often are motivated by the feeling of a fresh start and set new goals such as exercising more or eating more healthfully. Whether it’s learning to take better care of yourself or read a hundred books this year, our collection has plenty of audio books to help with your New Year’s Resolution. In just a few hours of listening, you can discover how to deal with stress, manage your money and more! Ok, it'll take some follow up effort too but these picks should help you get started.

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal

What Money Can’t Buy by Michael Sandel

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face By Alan Alda

You: The Owner’s Manual by Michael Roizen

You: Being Beautiful by Michael Roizen

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert


Don't forget to browse thorough out e-audiobook collection, available to download and listen instantly at RB Digital


Posted on Jan. 18, 2018 by Sou Phetsomphou