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Staff Picks/DVD Selections

Audio Book Selections: The American Story

In grade school history lessons, the United States is often described as a melting pot of people, cultures and religions from all around the world. In July, we celebrate the birth of our country and Independence Day.  In the July 4th issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, more than 15,000 people were said to be sworn in to become new U.S. citizens in naturalization ceremonies around the country. Inspired by the snippets of the backgrounds of these people, such as a Pakistani pharmacist and Iranian software engineer, this month’s audiobook selections feature the stories of Americans, past and present. From ordinary people to soldiers, these stories show there is no one American experience and the rich diversity of all of our people.

American Pastoral  by Philip Roth (CD Fic Roth)

Seymour ‘Swede’ Levov, a Jewish American businessman, and his perfect American middle class life is turned upside down in the political and social turmoil of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency and the 1960s. A Pulitzer Prize winner and made into film in late 2016.

Freedom  by Jonathan Franzen (CD Fic Franzen)

The idyllic lives of civic-minded environmentalists Patty and Walter Berglund of St. Paul, Minnesota come into question when their son moves in with aggressive Republican neighbors, green lawyer Walter takes a job in the coal industry, and go-getter Patty becomes increasingly unstable and enraged. A window into American life and family dynamics in the 1980s to early 2000s.

The Red Badge of Courage  by Stephen Crane (CD Fic Crane)

A classic novel set during the American Civil War about Henry Fleming, a Union Army soldier who runs from battle and his subsequent shame and desire to redeem himself.

Also available as an e-audiobook.

Brooklyn  by Colm Tóibín (CD Fic Tóibín)

Eilis Lacey finds herself reluctantly starting a new life in 1950s Brooklyn after she is given the chance to emigrate from Enniscorthy, Ireland by her family priest but later finds herself called back to Ireland due to a family tragedy. Made into a feature film in 2015.

On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry (CD Fic Barry)

Through journal entries, 89-year-old Lilly Bere narrates her story of fleeing from Ireland with her son to start a new life in America. She lives through the losses of loved ones, the civil rights movement, the Kennedy assastination, and the Vietnam war to the Gulf War while holding onto hope. Third in Sebastian Barry’s novels of the Dunne family.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (CD Fic Whitehead)

The story opens with the capture of Ajarry, grandmother to Cora, and follows Cora from her life on a Georgia plantation to her escape through the Underground Railroad. In her pre-Civil War journey from South to North, she must outrun Ridgeway, a slave catcher, and encounters cruelty from whites, other slaves and freedmen. Winner of the 2016 National Book Award and the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (CD Fic Saunders)

Inspired by the story of President Lincoln and his grief over the death of his son Willie, George Saunders takes artistic license to craft a story about the after-life of Willie Lincoln and his experience in the Bardo, the Tibetan name for the state of existence between death and the next life.

Posted on Jul. 18, 2017 by Sou Phetsomphou

DVD Selections: On Broadway


Does the price of Hamilton tickets give you sticker shock? Mechanics’ holds a collection of film adaptations of plays and musicals that members can check out for free. Stop by the DVD and Blu-ray display on the 2nd Floor, and enjoy these titles from the comfort of your home.

Heather says:

It seems like a natural progression when plays are translated into films, allowing everyone to enjoy the biggest hits on Broadway with a ten dollar ticket and a bucket of popcorn. (I hear rumors of a Hamilton adaptation!). But lately, it seems like there's a trend in the opposite direction – from the big screen to the stage. It's always interesting to see plays that were adapted from film, especially if you compare and contrast with the film version, either before or after seeing it onstage. My SHN subscription this season included Finding Neverland, and next season I'll be seeing Waitress and School of Rock. Looking East to Broadway, there's also Mean GirlsA Bronx TaleGroundhog Day, and Amelie.

Myles’ recommends:

Torch Song Trilogy – Harvey Fierstein plays a famous drag queen who deals with loss, a turbulent relationship with his mother, finding love and raising an adopted teenager. This film version is a condensed two-hour version of Fierstein’s four-hour play, which won two Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Actor in Play.  If you’re in the mood to cry one minute, and laugh the next, check out this classic LGBT drama.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf – Edward Albee recently passed away in 2016, leaving behind a career that spanned over fifty years. I’ll never forget sitting behind him during a performance of The Lady from Dubuque. Albee’s best known play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, was adapted for the silver screen in 1966 with an all-star cast featuring: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, and Sandy Dennis. The library also holds Albee’s A Delicate Balance.

Uncommon Women and Others - This screen adaptation of the Off-Broadway play by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award Winning feminist playwright Wendy Wasserstein, was funded through PBS and stars Meryl Streep, Swoosie Kurtz, and Jill Eikenberry. The play examines three former classmates as they rehash their college years over lunch.

Bobbie recommends:

Bullets over Broadway,  Rent,   Billy ElliotCabaretHairspray (2007),   Moulin Rouge (1952), and   Black Swan.

Posted on Jun. 12, 2017 by Myles Cooper

Audio Book Selections: Asian Pacific Heritage Month

In celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month, this May’s audio book selections feature works by authors with roots from countries all over Asia.

Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch by Dai Sijie (CD Fic Dai)

Dai Sijie, a Chinese-French author, tells the tale of inept psychology scholar Mr. Muo who returns to China after studying in France for 11 years to search for his lost sweetheart. Originally titled Le Complexe de Di, a play on the "le complexe d'Oedipe" or the complex of Oedipus, this novel was translated from French and is the second novel written by Sijie after Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami (CD Fic Murakami)

Bestselling Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s 13th book follows Tsukuru Tazaki as he searches for his best friends from high school and the answer to why they suddenly cut ties with him 16 years ago. 

Sea of poppies by Amitav Ghosh (CD Fic Ghosh)

Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh takes us aboard the ship Ibis which transports a penniless Raja, a widowed tribeswoman, a mulatto American man and a French orphan from the Ganges to Canton in this nineteenth century saga set during the time of the Opium Wars.

Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie (CD Fic Rushdie)

British Indian Salman Rushdie sets his novel against the backdrop of the political unrest of the beautiful Kashmir region, bordering Pakistan and India, and the people whose lives are affected by the unrest.  The story of Shalimar, once known as Shalimar the clown, and simple Kashmiri villager turned assassin, Maximillian, American ambassador to India and lover of Shalimar’s fiancé, Boonyi, and his illegitimate daughter, India, spans decades and continents.

The kite runner by Khaled Hosseini (CD Fic Hosseini) 

The Kite Runner, Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini’s first novel, spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list and follows Amir and Hassan from their childhood as friends in Kabul, Afghanistan to twenty six years later. Though they eventually go separate ways, their lives remain entangled and meet again in this tale of redemption and the relationship between fathers and sons.

Never let me go: a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro (CD Fic Ishiguro) 

In Never Let Me Go, Japanese British author Kazuo Ishiguro writes of a school in England named Hailsham with special students. This dystopian science fiction novel is a parable of morality and man’s greed for immortality.


Posted on May. 17, 2017 by Sou Phetsomphou

Audio Book Selections: National Poetry Month

This month, National Poetry Month, we celebrate poets and their work. Some might say that this craft is more difficult than longer forms of writing, such as novels and essays, because poetry usually has a shorter format and cadence.  The audio book selections for this month, which are displayed in the 2nd floor Library, feature well known poets whose work is music to the ears.

The Voices of Love   (CD 808.81 V889)

This collection of poems about love and the range of emotions it inspires--longing, despair, joy—are performed by ten actors and include timeless works from poets such as Robert Burns, John Keats and E.E. Cummings.

From Shakespeare with Love   (CD 821.3 S527)

The Bard of Avon, as Shakespeare was often styled, was the author of some of the most well known love poetry ever written. This collection includes 80 of his best sonnets and is performed by top actors, with David Tennant (of British TV series Doctor Who) leading.

A  Midsummer Night’s Dream   (CD 822 S521mia)

One of Shakespeare’s lighter plays, this lively comedy about four lovers’ romp in a midsummer wood and the ensuing chaos brought by meddling fairies is brought to life in this fully dramatized performance. “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

Poetry for the Beat Generation   (CD 818 K39 v.1)

Jack Kerouac performs to Steve Allen’s piano accompaniment in this album originally released in 1959.

The Voice of the Poet: Adrienne Rich   (CD 811 R498c)

Adrienne Rich’s work was first published in the 1950’s but the subject matter--politics, identity, feminism—remains relevant to this day. Read by Adrienne Rich herself and accompanied with a text.

The Voice of the Poet: Langston Hughes   (CD 811 H889vc)

Langston Hughes’ work spanned a wide range, from fiction to plays to essays, but his poetry is what he is most well known for.  Read by Langston Hughes himself and accompanied with a text.

The Caedmon poetry collection   (CD 808.81 C12)

Featuring 35 authors, this collection of poems are read by the authors themselves with rare recordings by William Butler Yeats.

Posted on Apr. 17, 2017 by Sou Phetsomphou

DVD Selections: As Seen on PBS

Mechanics’ Library staff members are among those who value programming the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has provided for our local public television stations. As a reminder of the quality programming that has enriched our lives, we have a display on the 2nd floor of our favorites available on DVD from our collection.

Joel recommends:

California's Gold #144, Farallon Islands – Huell Howser. What a guy. His enthusiasm was remarkable. In this episode we get to watch him venture out to the Farallon Islands, and very excitedly explore the islands and its wildlife. A classic episode. R.I.P. Huell!

Hoop Dreams directed by Steve James – Funded by PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts this documentary was originally planned as a 30 minutes PBS short. It ended up turning into a 3-hour theatrical film, and (in my opinion) one of the best documentaries ever made.

The National Parks: America's Best Idea a film by Ken Burns – I agree!  No other country boasts the diversity and beauty of our landscapes, and the fact that we've decided to protect and preserve them is something we should not take for granted and must remain diligent about continuing. Watch this wonderful 12-hour documentary to learn about the history and evolution of our national parks...and then go visit some of them!

Sou loves watching The Great British Baking Show and is a fan of cooking shows and musicals that are shown on PBS. Sou recommends Broadway, the American Musical.

Kristin says "Rick Steves taught me how to travel like a queen within my budget and Cook's Country how to cook like a pro! Without PBS I would not have access to these shows and my life would be less enriched."

Rhonda says “I grew up on PBS, such a wealth of thought-provoking programming, amazing specials, Nova, and all the great comedy series like  Are You Being Served".

Taryn recommends:

The Cultivated Life: Thomas Jefferson and Wine - A fascinating look at the multi-talented Thomas Jefferson and his efforts to cultivate wine!

And Frederick Law Olmsted : Designing America - America's finest park designer and early environmental warrior.

Deb recommends: Downton AbbeyFoyle's WarInspector LewisThe Inspector Lynley MysteriesInspector Morse and Nova.

Heather says “Whether indulging in a mystery solved by the soigné Hercule Poirot, traveling off the beaten path with Rick Steves, understanding the world via the reportage of the inimitable Gwen Ifill (1955 – 2016) on PBS NewsHour, or taking a deep dive into history Ken-Burns-style, I am a bit of a fangirl of the Public Broadcasting Service. I have a long list of favorites produced or distributed by PBS. Here are a few in our collection: Art:21The Central Park FiveTypefaceJazzThe Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, and  No Direction Home: Bob Dylan.”

Lia recommends The French Chef  “I absolutely love Julia Child.  I love her down-to-earth attitude and her sense of humor.  Watching her shows has inspired me to cook things I never thought I could make on my own.  One time she was making a flourless chocolate roulade with Jacques Pepin – a dessert I was utterly afraid of baking.  She treated it as if it were no big fuss, and she was right.  I followed her recipe and mine came out perfectly!”

Myles says “I love Keeping Up Appearances because it reminds me of my grandmother – it was her favorite show. PBS has been a great source for British comedies like the recent Vicious where Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi play an older gay couple. I am a nut for American Experience documentaries - I recommend Ric Burns’ The Donner Party  and the heartwarming My Life as a Turkey.


Posted on Apr. 10, 2017 by Myles Cooper

Springtime in Paris

Don’t you wish you could be spending springtime in Paris?  I do!!  Unfortunately, the closest I can get to Paris this year will be through books and my imagination. Therefore, the current selection of Staff Picks will feature titles set in Paris. As Audrey Hepburn once said “Paris is always a good idea”, and it seems like the staff at the Mechanics’ Institute agrees with her because there are lots of great suggestions this month. Pick up a title or two from the 2nd floor display and transport yourself to The City of Light. If you are lucky enough to be going there yourself this year..... Please Take Me With You!!

Kristin recommends:

(700.92 L265)  Paris portraits : stories of Picasso, Matisse, Gertrude Stein, and their circle by Harriet Lane Levy  -  What fun it must have been to attend one of Gertrude Stein’s salons and to have cocktails with Hemmingway while admiring a Matisse painting or trying to figure out what it was about Picasso’s art that made it unsightly yet alluring at the same time. The stories in this book give us an insider’s look into that salon.

(641.01 L525) The sweet life in Paris : delicious adventures in the world's most glorious - and perplexing - city by David Lebovitz  - Pastry chef and cookbook author, David Lebovitz’s trials and tribulations about moving to Paris and learning how to cook in a foreign kitchen. If you enjoy his often humorous adventures in the Parisian kitchen, be sure to check out his blog.


And to quote Heather, “Please don’t ask me to tell you what my favorite thing about Paris is (it’s the multitude of carousels, mais oui). There are so many things to love, from the fashion to the food, to the language itself. Here are a few of my picks to transport you to la belle ville this Spring: 

(810.8 A513)  Americans in Paris : a literary anthology by Adam Gopnik  -  This anthology distills 300 years of writings by Americans about a city that captures our imagination, has, in the past, embodied our revolutionary spirit, and continues to influence our ideas about art, fashion, and culture. From Thomas Jefferson to Cole Porter, this mosaic of impressions attempts to show Americans’ strong reactions to the city of light.

(641.865 P232)  Paris patisseries : history, shops, recipes  photography by Christian Sarramon ; foreword by Pierre Hermé  - Ladurée is my personal favorite pastry shop in Paris, but you might also consider the delectations of La Pâtisserie des Rêves, Des Gâteaux et du Pain, or Café Pouchkine. Pictures pretty enough to eat!

(391 M334)  Queen of fashion : what Marie Antoinette wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber  -  Okay, this one’s not strictly about Paris, since Mme. Antoinette lived at Versailles, but her avante-garde sartorial selections would influence not only the Paris fashion scene of her own era – but, I would argue, established Paris as the fashion capital of the world. This is an unusual biography – a biography of clothing, and how the young Dauphine used her wardrobe to cement her political position in an era of upheaval.

(920.72 L769)  Paris and her remarkable women  by Lorraine Liscio  -  Learn about sixteen exceptional women whose lives intersected with Paris in remarkable ways and whose eventual fame depended on the city itself.

(447 J787)  Parisienne French : chic phrases, slang and style  by Rhianna Jones  -  From the publisher: “Parisienne French will have you cultured, chic and, most importantly, casually chatting with locals as if you were raised in the City of Lights. With refined phrases to express yourself at the Musée d’Orsay, posh vocabulary for catching up on this season’s couture fashion and hip slang for flirting at the hottest nightclub, you’ll effortlessly navigate the social scenes of Paris. Your new eloquent French will win over any vrai patriote, who will warmly welcome you to la vie parisienne.” I couldn’t agree more.

(305.4 B491)   How to be Parisian wherever you are : love, style, and bad habits  by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Sophie Mas, Caroline De Maigret  -  This book is full of high comedy – showing how the ability to take oneself unseriously is a hallmark of the French je ne sais quoi.

Taryn recommends:

(944.36 D326)  How Paris became Paris : the invention of the modern city  by Joan E. DeJean  -   What makes Paris so wonderful? Smart urban planning!

(944.36 R631)  Parisians an adventure history  by Graham Robb  -  An interesting collection of historical vignettes about the world's favorite city.

(FIC)  The Belly of Paris by Émile Zola  -  Another extraordinary installment in Zola's Rougon-Macquart series series.  This one hits you square in the stomach!

Paris is also one of Diane’s favorite cities and some of her favorite fiction books set in that beautiful city are:

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
The Paris Wife by Paula McClain
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Sou is hoping to find the time to read  The Hundred Foot Journey  by Richard Morias

Erik’s Graphic Novel suggestions are:

(741.5 M214)  750 years in Paris by Vincent Mahe  and

(741.5 P971)  Cruising through the Louvre  by David Prudhomme

Erik also suggests some music to go with your reading:

Cafe de Paris [sound recording] : 75 grands succes francais  (CD Pop Cafe)

Rendezvous à Paris [sound recording]  (CD Jazz Rendezvous)

Chet Baker in Paris [sound recording] : a selection from the legendary Barclay sessions, 1955-1956  (CD Jazz Baker)

And in case you were wondering, in Paris in 2015 there were:

  • 1,784 bakeries
  • 1,124 bars and
  • 9,054 open terraces (of a bar, café, or restaurant)
  • If you were to spend each day of your life visiting a different one it would take 30 years to see them all!

Au Revoir!


Posted on Apr. 10, 2017 by Kristin McCarthy

DVD Selections - Art in Film

Need to brush up on your art history before heading down to Dada Bar & Gallery? Mechanics’ Institute has an excellent collection of films about visual art and artists. From biopics to documentaries, check out the DVD Display on the 2nd floor for staff favorites.

Myles recommends:

Herb & Dorothy - An adorable documentary about a postal worker and a librarian couple who amass a priceless collection of modern art in their small New York City apartment. What Herb and Dorothy do with their collection is just as interesting as how they collected it - I find it a fascinating look into art commerce and philanthropy.

And Mr. Turner - Timothy Spall spent years preparing for the role of J. M. W. Turner. Get an accurate glimpse into Turner's technique and vision that laid the groundwork for impressionism. Turner lived a tumultuous life, even if you're not a fan of the painter, there is plenty of drama in this biopic, nominated for four Academy Awards.

Sou recommends:

Shakespeare in Love - “one of Gwyneth Paltrow's more memorable roles, I loved the period costumes and sets and seeing Shakespeare's work come to life.”

Kristin recommends:

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

Joel recommends:

In the Realms of the Unreal - This documentary explores the life and art of "outsider artist" Henry Darger, a custodian whose remarkable 15,000 page illustrated fantasy manuscript was found in his Chicago apartment after his death. We have a couple of books on Darger, which can be found in the 700.92 section on floor 2B.

Finding Vivian Maier - Another reclusive artist whose work was not discovered until after her death, Vivian Maier worked as a nanny for 40 years, but in her free time secretly created a collection of over 150,000 photographs of mid-twentieth century street life. A book on her work can be found in the photography section on 2B.

Beautiful Losers - 2008 documentary on a group of American artists, designers, musicians, filmmakers. It features some now well recognized artists and filmmakers like Shepard Fairey, Harmony Korine, and Mike Mills, but most excitingly are the sections of the film devoted to Barry McGee and Margaret Kilgallen (RIP), two of my all-time favorite Bay Area artists. Also check out the book we have from Barry McGee's amazing 2012 exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum.

Crumb - Great documentary on famed Bay Area comic book pioneer Robert Crumb. We have a handful of his books for checkout in Graphic Novels on the 2nd floor.

Cutie and the Boxer - This documentary examines the unusual 40-year marriage of Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, two eccentric bohemian artists living in New York.

American Splendor - Largely an adaption of his autobiographical comic series of the same, this comedy/drama stars Paul Giamatti as curmudgeon underground comic book writer Harvey Pekar. We also have several of Pekar books for checkout in the Graphic Novel section on the 2nd floor.

Andrei Rublev - Andrei Tarkovsky never made a bad movie, and this (very long) biographical drama of 15th-century Russian icon painter Andrei Rublev is easily one of his best.

And Akira Kurosawa's Dreams - One of Akira Kurosawa's last films, Dreams is a collection of episodes inspired by some of the directors actual dreams. One of the more memorable episodes is about a young artist that gets trapped inside various pieces of Vincent Van Gogh's art, and stars Martin Scorsese (!!!) as Van Gogh and includes visual effects by George Lucas.

Posted on Feb. 13, 2017 by Myles Cooper

Staff Picks: In Honor of the DaDa Bar

The Mechanics’ Institute is pleased to have as its newest tenant The Dada Bar! In anticipation of its grand opening, this round of Staff Picks will feature books about bars, drinks, and lushes, or written by lushes.

Soused authors suggested by Taryn include:

Dorothy Parker – famous for her wit, wisecracks, and blistering satire, Parker was also a noted drinker, claiming that, “ I like to have a martini, two at the most, after three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host”.

John Cheever, brilliant chronicler of American suburbia, was a champion drinker. He took to the bottle to salve pain caused by self-loathing and doubt over his sexuality.

Edgar Allen Poe - Poe fans are obsessed with his use of alcohol and opium. Were they his twin muses? Did they contribute to his death? The jury is out!

Erik suggests graphic novels that do not give you a happy buzz such as:

Saint Cole by Noah Van Sciver, and

The Fade Out. Act One by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips

Kristin's book of choice is Ripe Was the Drowsy Hour by J.E. Chamberlin in which the author explores the culture and society of Oscar Wilde‘s time. “The fascination with the perverse and paradoxical and with the complex interrelationships between sorrow and joy, pleasure and pain, and beauty and truth are Chamberlin’s subjects in this engrossing work.”

You can also pick up one the lesser known pieces of works by these famous hard working/drinking authors, such as:

William Faulkner’s Knight's Gambit - six mysteries set in Yoknapatawpha county Mississippi.

Truman Capote’s Other Voices Other Rooms - Capote’s own semi-autobiographical coming of age novel.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tales of the Jazz Age - a collection of short stories taking place in the early 1920s.

The Stephen King Companion. “A book by book look at King’s books. These write ups tell the story behind the story.“  Complete with illustrations.

And here are a few drinks of choice by select authors:

Edgar Allen Poe - Eggnog. Poe’s eggnog was a family specialty passed down through generations.

Raymond Chandler - Gin Gimlet

Ian Fleming – Gin Martini

William Faulkner – Mint Julep

F. Scott Fitzgerald - Gin Rickey

Stephen King - Beer!

Hunter S. Thompson - Wild Turkey, and on occasion with Ginger Beer.

Truman Capote - Large Vodka and orange, referred to as his orange drink.

Oscar Wilde - Iced Champagne

Enjoy your reading and hope to see you soon at The Dada Bar!


Posted on Dec. 19, 2016 by Kristin McCarthy

Cozy Cold Weather Reads - AudioBook Selections

This December, whether you’re hiding out at home from the crowds and the cold, driving to see family, wrapping presents, or baking cookies, it’s likely your hands will be too busy to leaf through books. This month’s audiobook selections of cozy mysteries and Christmas tales will keep you company as you go about your tasks.

The Christmas Train  by David Baldacci

Journalist Tom Langdon, a weary and cash-strapped journalist, is forced to take the train to Los Angeles to be with his girlfriend for Christmas after he is banned from flying. In this funny and uplifting story, through encounters with a ridiculous cast of characters, romance, and an avalanche, Tom will learn what truly makes the holidays special.

Skipping Christmas  by John Grisham

In this book that inspired the Tim Allen movie Christmas with the Kranks, Luther and Nora Krank decide to skip Christmas this year in lieu of a Christmas cruise. Grisham’s hilarious and insightful depiction of holiday chaos and modern A Christmas Carol will delight listeners looking for a light story.

A Christmas Carol  by Charles Dickens

In this classic Christmas story published in 1843, Charles Dickens writes of a miser who learns the true meaning of Christmas when three ghostly visitors open his eyes to his past and foretells a grim future, thereby giving him a chance at redemption.  While you may be familiar with A Christmas Carol, listen to the story in its entirety in this unabridged version performed by veteran narrator Frank Muller who brings each character to life with distinct voices and nuanced delivery.

Eleven Pipers Piping  by C. C. Benison

Father Tom Christmas, a recently widowed vicar, would do almost anything to avoid attending an annual supper at a local hotel. But as chaplain to a traditional Scottish pipe band he must deliver the grace. The revelry carries on in the hotel until its owner-and piper, Will Moir, goes missing-only to be found dead in the hotel's tower apparently from a heart attack. Who would benefit the most from the piper's death? Father Tom investigates

Blood from a Stone  by Donna Leon

On a cold Venetian night shortly before Christmas, a street vendor is killed in a scuffle in Campo San Stefano. The closest witnesses to the event are the tourists who had been browsing the man's wares before his death. The dead man is one of the many African immigrants purveying goods outside normal shop hours and trading without a work permit. Like everybody involved, Commissario Brunetti wonders why anyone would kill an illegal immigrant.

How the Light Gets In: a Chief Inspector Gamache novel  by Louise Penny

Christmas is approaching, and in Quebec it's a time of dazzling snowfalls, bright lights, and gatherings with friends in front of blazing hearths. But shadows are falling on the usually festive season for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Most of his best agents have left the Homicide Department, his old friend and lieutenant Jean-Guy Beauvoir hasn't spoken to him in months, and hostile forces are lining up against him. 

Posted on Dec. 1, 2016 by Sou Phetsomphou

DVD Selections: They Take Place in Space


Want a break from Earth? Need a cosmic perspective? Swing by the 2nd floor DVD Display for titles that will take you out of this world.

Taryn recommends:

Lost in Space
Watch the classic on Hulu and then check out this contemporary spin - fear not, the cardboard sets are gone!

An astronomer (after looking futilely on earth for decades) searches for extraterrestrial intelligent life.

Barbarella, an astronaut, lands on the frozen planet Lythion (wearing very little) and sets out to find the renowned/sex crazed scientist Durand Durand who is unrelated to the English new wave/synthpop band. If you need more cheese in your life this will surely satisfy!

Matt recommends:

Alien, Aliens, The Empire Strikes Back and 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Deb recommends:

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
“Let's face it, we never knew the term "hyperspace" existed until Han Solo put the Millennium Falcon into that mode in Episode IV: A New Hope.”

Diane recommends:

Apollo 13
“Ever since I discovered that one of my husband and my closest friends was on the team at Mission Control in Houston who had to figure out how to safely bring back the Apollo 13 spacecraft and astronauts, I have loved the movie Apollo 13! His stories about that mission were pretty faithfully portrayed in the movie.”

And, the newer Star Trek movies with Chris Pine: Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into the Darkness
“they are always great for a fun Saturday afternoon matinee!”

Lia recommends:

Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home
"After reuniting with Spock, the crew of the Enterprise receives a distress call from Earth, prompting a journey back in time to 1980s San Francisco. Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home combines Star Trek's brand of cerebral science fiction with fish-out-of-water humor.  With a plot that stands out on its own from its predecessors, this is one Star Trek movie that's fun to watch over and over again."

Guardians of the Galaxy
"After stealing an orb for a mysterious buyer, Peter Quill (the legendary StarLord) finds himself running from the law, the assassin Gamora, and bounty hunters Rocket and Groot.  But when they discover the orb could be the key to the destruction of a planet, the four of them put aside their differences to team up and save the galaxy.  Simultaneously funny and touching, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is a visually stunning journey through the multiverse."

Myles recommends:

A Brief History of Time - looks at Steven Hawking's work into the origin and fate of the universe. Colleagues and loved ones recount Hawking's struggles and triumphs through adversity in this documentary directed by Errol Morris (Gates of Heaven, Thin Blue Line), featuring music by Phillip Glass. Check out Hawking’s book by the same title, A Brief History of Time, for further mind bending.

If "camp" is your thing, watch the unnecessary drama unfold as Bellus (a fictional planet) collides with Earth in When Worlds Collide (1951). Only a chosen few will board a spaceship to Zyra, a moon of Bellus, before the disastrous collision. Zyra's set design is worth the watch until the end- if you can laugh (and stomach) your way through the acting.

In Gravity, Dr. Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, faces uncharted obstacles while in Earth’s orbit. This science-fi suspense movie soon turns into a tearjerker about motherhood. Don't let the title fool you; incredible special effects make the viewer feel weightless. If you need a good cry, check out Gravity.

Posted on Nov. 21, 2016 by Myles Cooper