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Staff Picks/DVD Selections

“Wicked” Audiobook Selections

You don’t have to like Halloween to enjoy this selection of audiobooks with a supernatural twist. There were no scarcity of spooky stories to choose from this time around as Mechanics’ Institute members are avid readers of mysteries, thrillers and the like.

Wicked by Gregory Maguire (CD Fic Maguire)

Whatever happened to Dorothy’s arch nemesis, the Wicked Witch of the West? Wicked is about a land where animals talk, the Tin Man is a victim of domestic violence and a little green skinned Elphaba who grows up to become the infamous witch.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (CD Fic Bradbury)

This masterpiece of fiction weaves together dreams and nightmares, childhood memories and fantasies to create a magical tale about two boys, best friends Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, who come upon evil secrets.

The Book of the Dead by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (CD Fic Preston)

An FBI agent wrongly imprisoned; his gifted but mad brother about to commit a crime; a young woman on the edge of a breakdown; an ancient Egyptian tomb with a mysterious curse about to be revealed at a New York gala. A Aloysius Pendergast series book.

Stationary Bike by Stephen King (CD Fic King)

A ordinary household object seems to have otherworldly powers for Richard Sifkitz in this thrilling Stephen King  tale.

Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie (CD Fic Christie)

When a 13 year old boasts that she witnessed a murder at a Halloween party, it falls to Hercule Poirot to unmask a murderer in Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery.



Need something to listen to now? Download e-audiobook and start listening immediately!:

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

The first in the popular Southern Vampire Mysteries and Sookie Stackhouse series and the basis for the HBO show True Blood

Tales of terror by Edgar Allan Poe

With The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cast of Amontillado and more.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

A story of time travel and romance; recently made into a hit TV series.


Other audiobooks to check out:

Saint Odd by Dean Koontz (CD Fic Koontz)

The Magician King by Lev Grossman (CD Fic Grossman)

Cell by Stephen King (CD Fic King)

11/22/63 by Stephen King (CD Fic King)

Revival by Stephen King (CD Fic King)

Selected Shorts. Poe! By Edgar Allan Poe (CD Fic Poe)

The Golem of Hollywood by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman (CD Fic Kellerman)

Posted on Oct. 5, 2017 by Sou Phetsomphou

Staff Picks: Do You Believe in Magic?

There’s magic in the air of the Mechanics’ Institute Library. Wizards and witches are casting their spells on the shelves of the Staff Picks Display. There are some enchanting books waiting to be read by you. Inspired by Harry Potter’s 20th Anniversary, the staff recommendations focus on witches, wizards, alchemy and magic. If you haven’t read the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (the first in the series) start there and then check out the rest.

Taryn recommends:

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
A fascinating Arthurian tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat!

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
Another vivid Arthurian tale, this one following the magician Merlin's life story.

Magical Mathematics by Persi Diaconis and Ron Graham (793.8 D536)
Behind every good magic trick there's math - get the theory behind the magic!

Heather says:

I absolutely adore V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series – start with A Darker Shade of Magic and read them in order (#2 A Gathering of Shadows; #3 A Conjuring of Light) – this series is compelling, stylish, and takes a refreshingly laissez-faire approach to gender. Its fluidity is part of its unrelenting charm, even as the world(s) crumble around the central quest of the novel. You might (over)simplify it categorically as the love child of Orlando and The Matrix – it’s far more complex than that though, so please don’t (simplify). However you describe it, it’s one of my favorite recent discoveries. Please enjoy!

The Magicians is the first in a trilogy by Lev Grossman, wherein young Quentin Coldwater attends Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy (in New York, not England). The book attempts to circumvent the comparison to Hogwarts by alluding to a Narnia-esque YA novel that Quentin and his friends are obsessed with, but this is definitely a “Hogwarts College” kind of novel, with a little Chronicles of Narnia thrown in, a hint of A Wrinkle in Time, and a soupcon of His Dark Materials… If that sounds appealing to you, dig in to this series!

Erik recommends:

The Dark Horse Book of Witchcraft : eight weird mysteries of powerful women and supernatural skill-- told in words and pictures (741.5 D219)

Lia says:

I LOVE this topic because I read a ton of fantasy books!  Here are some of my favorites featuring witches, wizards, and all that fun stuff:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik - In this Nebula Award winner, a young girl is chosen every 10 years to live with the cold, distant wizard called The Dragon.  Uprooted follows a young girl named Agnieszka, and she's sure that her best friend, Katia, will be chosen by the Dragon.  After all, Katia is the bravest, smartest, most beautiful girl in town.  But when the Dragon comes down from his tower, it's not Katia who he chooses.  In this clever, beautifully written novel Novik plays with traditional fantasy tropes, along with an interesting take on Baba Yaga stories.

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines - Who could resist a book about a magical librarian?  Libriomancer follows the adventures of Isaac Vainio (librarian by day, wizard by night), who creates magic by pulling objects out of books.  In this fast paced urban fantasy, Isaac has to work together with a sword-wielding dryad to find the vampires who've kidnapped Gutenberg (yes, that Gutenberg).  This book is pure fun.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher - Butcher is one of my favorite authors, and I can't get enough of his novels about Harry Dresden, wizard and private investigator.  Working closely with the Chicago P.D., Harry Dresden investigates the oddball cases no one wants to deal with - or believe in.  In this first book of the series, the Chicago P.D. calls him in on a grisly double murder committed with black magic.  Storm Front is a beautiful marriage of urban fantasy and hard-boiled detective novels.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin  - I firmly believe Jemisin is the best fantasy writer alive today.  In The Fifth Season she introduces us to a land called The Stillness, a continent rocked by apocalyptic earthquakes.  The only people who can stop the earthquakes are Orogenes, people born with the ability to control the near daily shakes.  In this Hugo Award winner, Jemisin confronts issues of race, power, and the things people will do to survive. 

Deb recommends:

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (children's)
2017 Newbery Medal Winner
An enchanting book full of magic for those who love classic fairytales.

The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children by Keith McGowan (children's)
"I love children. Eating them, that is. So begins this funny, nail-biting adventure."

Well Witched by Frances Hardinge (children's)
Ever wonder what happens to all those wishes made with a coin toss into a wishing well? 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (children's)
This classic tale by C.S. Lewis will entice you to read all of the books in The Chronicles of Narnia series.

Kristin recommends:

Alchemy of Herbs –Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal by Rosalee de la Foret (615.321 F718) - Create your own magic in the kitchen and put that extra garlic and ginger you may have on hand at home to good use. This book has easy straight forward recipes that will help cure what ails you.

Posted on Aug. 30, 2017 by Kristin McCarthy

Audio Book Selections: Art & Artists

Did you know that August is National American Artist Appreciation Month?  In the spirit of celebrating art and artists, this month’s audio book selections feature works centered on artists of all kinds, from musical to poetical and works of art.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (CD Fic Tartt)

A bildungsroman focused on Theodore Decker and The Goldfinch, a 1654 painting by Carel Fabritius of a chained goldfinch.

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro (CD Fic Shapiro)

Artist Claire Roth is asked to forge a Degas painting that was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum over 25 years ago.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (CD Fic Joyce)

In James Joyce’s first novel, Stephen Daedalus transforms into an artist as he grows from boy to man.

Life Studies : stories by Susan Vreeland (CD Fic Vreeland) 

An exploration of the power of art and the people whose lives intertwined with artists such as Monet and Van Gogh.

The Man Called Cash by Steve Turner (CD 780.92 C338tc)

The exclusive authorized biography of Johnny Cash, the iconic music artist whose influence continues in American popular culture today.

Check out the audio book display in the 2nd floor Library!

Posted on Aug. 23, 2017 by Sou Phetsomphou

DVD Selections: Movies That Rock!

Are you ready to take a walk on the wild side? Swing by our  Movies That Rock  DVD and Blu-ray display on the 2nd Floor. Not sure what to check out? Below are some staff recommendations from the display. Turn up your TV and get ready to rock!

Heather recommends:

Spin magazine says it best: "The missing link between punk and riot grrl wasn't a band or even a fleeting subgenre, but an amazing 1982 music-biz satire that was never properly released, seen only on late-night cable, crappy bootlegs, and at art-house revivals." Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains is a feminist sendup of the exploitative, sexist music business via the rise and fall of an all-girl band who embraces the punk ethos: we don't care what you think, and we're gonna do what we want to. Frontwoman Corinne "Third Degree" Burns encapsulates this feminist rebellion from the stage – "I'm perfect, but nobody … gets me because I don't put out." These 80s punk tweens – the actors who play The Stains (Diane Lane, Laura Dern, and Marin Kanter) ranged in age from 13-15 at the time of filming – present a refreshing perspective of the kind of defiant feminism embodied in the riot grrl movement. Some of my favorite musicians during high school – Courtney Love, Tobi Vail from Bikini Kill, Donna A of The Donnas, and virtually every member of L7 – cite this film as influential; members of The Clash and the Sex Pistols appear in supporting roles; this film has a lot of indie cred, but the main reason to watch it is that it's funny, smart, and stylish. Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy the ride!

Joel recommends:

I’m Not There – For me one of the more memorable and fascinating biographical films ever made, Todd Haynes’ Bob Dylan biopic features 6 different actors and actresses playing Dylan and his multiple personas. More than just a gimmick, Todd Haynes assembles these multiple personas to create an intentionally fractured and complex portrayal of the very complicated legend, which somehow feels more true to Dylan and his career than any straightforward portrayal could.

Coffee and CigarettesCoffee and Cigarettes is a collection of short films that Jim Jarmusch made over his career featuring various actors and musicians talking over coffee and cigarettes. Not all of the shorts are winners but it sure is fun to watch these personalities converse over random topics. A few favorites: Tom Waits and Iggy Pop celebrate quitting smoking by smoking a cigarette. Steve Buscemi and Cinqué and Joie Lee (brother and sister of Spike Lee) talk about Elvis’s evil twin. Jack White explains the brilliance of Nikola Tesla to Meg White. RZA and GZA of Wu-Tang warn Bill Murray about the harmful effects of caffeine and tobacco.

Craig recommends:

Hairspray, released in 1988, starring Ricki Lake, and featuring Divine, Mink Stole, Debbie Harry, Jerry Stiller, and Ruth Brown. The film revolves around self-proclaimed "pleasantly plump" teenager Tracy Turnblad, as she pursues stardom as a dancer on a local TV show and rallies against racial segregation. Hairspray is John Waters' second-highest-rated film (behind Multiple Maniacs and is considered 'perhaps John Waters' most accessible film. As such, it's a gently subversive slice of retro hilarity.'  In 2002, the film was adapted into a Broadway musical of the same name, which won Best Musical in 2003. A second film version of Hairspray, an adaptation of the stage musical, was also released in 2007, starring John Travolta, with many changes of scripted items from the original.

Kristin recommends:

The Doors' R-Evolution - Due to Jim Morrison's untimely death The Doors were only around for a short while. This Blu-Ray DVD features rare and seldom seen footage of the band and really showcases their creative style.

Myles recommends:

The Who’s Quadrophenia is a stylish coming of age film, based on The Who’s rock opera by the same name, directed by Franc Roddam. Bleak mid-sixties Brighton becomes the epicenter of two motorbike riding youth subcultures: the mods and rockers who clash in this grey seaside town. Unlike The Who’s previous rock opera adaptation of Tommy, Quadrophenia doesn't look psychedelic. Instead it appears gritty and true to life.

I Am Divine - Divine’s performances in John Water films like Pink Flamingos and Hairspray may overshadow her disco music career. I still hear “You Think You’re a Man” and “I’m So Beautiful” in clubs today. This comprehensive, biographical film takes you through every stage of the cult icon's life, from a young boy named Harris to the Divine we remember today.

Rhonda recommends: Cadillac Records

Posted on Aug. 11, 2017 by Myles Cooper

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