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Staff Picks/DVD Selections

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

Honoring our Veterans - Audiobook Selections

This November 11th marks the 78th Veterans Day since 1938.  November 11, 1918 is regarded as the end of World War I and in 1919 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it Armistice Day and would “be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.” In 1938, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day by President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclamation and commemorates those who served our country.

November’s audiobook selection features not only stories of veterans, but also unsung heroes, the family and friends of veterans and others affected by war.

Deb suggests:

Unbroken : a World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption by Laura Hillenbrand; CD 940.5472 Z26c

Louie Zamperini’s story of survival and resilience and his journey from a juvenile delinquent to Olympic runner to Army hero is set during World War II and is “[a]mbitious and powerful . . . a startling narrative and an inspirational book.”—The New York Times Book Review

Mayflower : a story of courage, community, and war by Nathaniel Philbrick;  CD 973.2 P545c

The romantic story of the Pilgrim settlement of New England is upended in this recounting by Philbrick.  A story of survival, courage, and grim reality, Mayflower will shed light on the true history of America’s first settlers.

Taryn says:

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Welles; CD Fic Wells

This story should definitely be heard rather than read. Originally the "audio" version was directed and narrated by Welles - airing on Halloween. It became famous for allegedly causing mass panic, although the reality of the panic is disputed as the program had relatively few listeners!

Liar, temptress, soldier, spy : four women undercover in the Civil War  by Karen Abbott; CD 973.785 A132

A sizzling narrative about four ladies who defied gender norms and did their duty for home and country.

Further picks:

The cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway; CD Fic Galloway

This novel about war, how precious the insignificant daily rituals can be, and the enduring human spirit is inspired by cellist Vedran Smailovic who played for 22 days in Sarajevo, Bosnia in 1992.

Home: a novel  by Toni Morrison; CD Fic Morrison

Korean War vet Frank Money returns home to 1950s Lotus, Georgia to save his younger sister Cee. Haunted by memories of war and struggling with alcohol dependency, Frank returns with Cee to their hometown to begin their path to healing. Read by the author.


Posted on Nov. 3, 2016 by Sou Phetsomphou

DVD Selections: Women in Comedy

This month’s display pays homage to the funny women of film and television. Take a look back with selections from our collection that highlight women writers and actors who make us giggle. 

Craig says:

The Library holds three comedies in DVD format with Rosalind Russell in a leading role. The films include: Auntie Mame where she plays an exuberant and flamboyant woman who hosts frequent parties with eclectic, bohemian guests ; Gypsy where she plays the stage mother from hell who prods and pushes her daughters into a vaudeville career ; and The Women, a brilliantly written, classic comedy about a happily married woman who lets her catty friends talk her into divorce when her husband strays. The star-studded cast consists entirely of women.

Taryn recommends:

Broadcast News - Maybe, actually a drama but it features Holly Hunter who has proved herself to be an actress of almost unparalleled range. Her career has had her play characters that are funny, feisty and even mute!

A Damsel in Distress - With a screenplay by PG Wodehouse and the hilarious Gracie Allen, it's hard to go wrong with this vintage film.


Myles recommends:

A hilarious BBC series about the fictional sleepy village of Dibley, Oxfordshire  brightened by their first female vicar, played by Dawn French in The Vicar of Dibley.  The show, created after the Church of England’s decision to ordain women, portrays an in-charge, warm hearted, crudely honest vicar. The culture clash results are a comedy of equal parts sweet and silly.

Based on sketch comedy originally created by Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, the two outrageous middle aged women, who won’t let anything get in the way of their selfish and hedonistic desires, are seen in sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. I can’t get enough of their unquenchable thirst for ridiculous fashions and the side-splitting role reversals between mother Edina Monsoon (played by Saunders) and daughter Saffron (played by Julia Sawalha).  If you like Ab Fab, be sure to check out the antics Patsy and Edina are up to in their 60s in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie in theatres now.

Posted on Sep. 27, 2016 by Myles Cooper

DVD Selections: Summer Blockbusters

Summer is here! Days are longer and family and friends come together to beat-the-heat in the movie theaters. A Summer film becomes a blockbuster when it reaches such wide appeal that it becomes a must-watch cultural event. Below are a few Summer Blockbuster staff picks. Stop by the second floor display to revisit Summer memories, or catch up on big Hollywood films.

Taryn says "I’m a sucker for all things Marvel, from the Agents of SHIELD and Daredevil TV shows, to basically every Avengers-related film Joss Whedon has orchestrated. I may have a small crush on the Incredible Hulk, whether played by Edward Norton or Mark Ruffalo, but my favorite of the superheroes currently on the Avengers cinematic roster is Captain America. I even own a set of Captain America: Civil War glassware designed by Mondo – if you remember this fact, you’ll win at MI Librarian Trivia Night, for sure! Captain America the Winter Soldier sets up a lot of what’s to come in the Marvel cinematic universe, so even if you think you don’t like Cap’ because he’s just too apple pie, you should check this film out, make a big bowl of popcorn, and enjoy!"

Craig recommends A Summer Place which is based on the novel of the same name, written by Sloan Wilson and in the Library collection. This 1959 romantic drama film is about teenage lovers from different social classes who get back together twenty years later, and must deal with the passionate love affair of their own teenage children by previous marriages. The movie stars Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee as the children. This melodrama caused a stir in the late '50s for its racy look at marital infidelity and forbidden teenage love.

Deb and Myles recommend Jaws. A Steven Spielberg film based on a novel by Peter Benchley, Jaws was the highest grossing film of all time previous to Star Wars. Starring Roy Scheider as a heroic police chief, Richard Dreyfuss as a levelheaded oceanographer, and Robert Shaw as a swashbuckling shark-hunter. Jaws is the tale of a giant great-white that attacks humans off the coast of a small New England town. The score, composed by John Williams, famous for the  “duh nuh” sound on cellos, won an Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score. Was Jaws a thriller or a horror movie? Was Jaws 'man vs. nature' or just another monster movie? Watch again and ask yourself, why is Jaws so scary?

Myles recommends Alien 3Alien was the summer blockbuster that allowed for the lucrative Alien franchise still active today. While Alien 3 did not get the critical acclaim of the original science-fiction thriller, I happen to like it the most. In Alien 3 Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, is an outcast who finds herself trapped in a penal colony battling an alien without the firepower and teamwork of the previous Alien films. It features unforgettable scenes like Weaver shaving her head, and Weaver birthing an alien out of her chest. Look out for Alien: Covenant in theatres in 2017.

Posted on Jul. 28, 2016 by Myles Cooper

Staff Picks: SF Literary Scene

One of the greatest things about living in the San Francisco Bay Area is its literary scene.  There are a number of independent bookstores, used bookstores, public libraries and, of course, the best membership library around, the Mechanics’ Institute.  Also, many wordsmiths call San Francisco and its expanse home.  As a way to honor and thank those authors who do live in the Bay Area, the current Staff Picks display will feature their works. A short list of selected authors can be found on top of the display bookcase. For more titles and authors please see one of our friendly and knowledgeable librarians.

Titles suggested by staff members  include:

Heather’s pick,

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
This genre-bending tale will make you laugh, will make you marvel, and will make you think. It starts off as a fantasy novel with young protagonists (think, Lev Grossman's Magicians series without the excessive exposition), but it then shifts sharply -- here's the bending of genre I mentioned -- into the characters' future, in which a billionaire is plotting to send 10% of Earth's inhabitants to space...

...but I don't want to give away too much of the plot! Trust me, this book is not your run of the mill [insert-genre-here] story -- it's wry, it's complex and original, with great dialogue and a charming cast of characters. One reviewer compared the book to something William Gibson might write, but I enjoyed this more than anything I've read by Gibson. Check it out, and you may come away with another favorite author. Charlie Jane Anders is definitely a mainstay on my must-read list!

Taryn’s picks,

As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel by Rudy Rucker
Rudy Rucker is a writer/mathematician who is a computer scientist and master of science-fiction who received the Philip K. Dick Award twice. What's he doing writing an historical novel? You'll just have to find out!

Mary : a novel by Janis Cooke Newman
A juicy portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln - a woman hungry for love, shopping, and a little understanding. Very much "fictionalized" but still fun!

Richard Brautigan's Trout fishing in America, The pill versus the Springhill mine disaster, and In watermelon sugar
Mind blowing - try it!

Erik picks two works by Gene Luen Yang. A graphic novelist from Oakland: Boxers and Saints.

Kristin’s pick, Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond. A foggy beach, a lost child, life changing in an instant, all are major factors in this enthralling story from Michelle Richmond.

Sou’s pick is Epitaph for a Peach by David Mas Masumoto. She loved every page of this book!

Posted on May. 23, 2016 by Kristin McCarthy