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Staff Picks/DVD Selections

DVD Selections: Mystery


As days become shorter, opportunities to cozy up at home with selections from our DVD collection become enticing. Retreat with mystery selections including crime, caper, suspense, whodunits and more. Below are a few staff picks from our wide assortment of Mystery Fiction. Visit the 2nd Floor DVD display and enjoy at home.

Myles recommends Poirot - An eccentric Belgian policeman turned famous London private detective, Hercule Poirot, solves crime puzzles with self assurance and subtle humor. This series, based on Agatha Christie’s crime novels and short stories, starring David Suchet, wraps each mystery into neat and tidy episodes with interesting solutions. Watch consecutively or out of order, enjoy this cozy series with period Art Deco costumes and sets.

Heather recommends Vertigo – “I recently saw Vertigo for the first time at the Castro Theater. Eminently creepy from beginning to end, deceptions wrapped in deceptions, not a single character of pristine morals in the cast -- this film keeps you guessing until almost the very end. Afterward, my viewing partner and I spent *literal hours* discussing the intricacies of story, visual language, and camera work in this film. Hitchock is always a masterful filmmaker, but Vertigo may just be his master work.”

Taryn recommends Match Point - Loosely based on the novel American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, watch what happens when a man on the make will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Also, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold - Richard Burton and John LeCarre, what's not to like? And, High and Low – “Another Kurosawa and Mifune masterpiece!”.

Sarah recommends Rear Window, Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice and the “awesome” Wild at Heart.

Posted on Oct. 20, 2015 by Myles Cooper

Staff Picks: Artists & Architects


As the Fall Arts Season begins in the Bay Area, the staff at the Mechanics' Institute shares with its members their favorite books on Artists and Architects. If you can’t make it out to your favorite museum this fall or are looking to learn more about your favorite artists, check out the September Staff Picks display.

Kevin recommends The Guerrilla Girls’ Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art (704.042 G935)

The Guerilla Girls are a group of artist activists who rethink art history from a feminist perspective. They present their message with intelligence, wit, and guerrilla masks!

Craig recommends The Andy Warhol Diaries edited by Pat Hackett (92 W275)

Published in the late 1980s just after Warhol’s unexpected death, this hefty work is over 800 pages long. It’s a fascinating look inside the head of the somewhat mysterious personality. This book is a veritable who’s who (and where) of the 1980s. For example, Warhol comments on Bianca and Mick Jagger’s ugly split, Truman Capote’s passing, crushes on rock stars, celebrity parties, and catty remarks about friends and foes, all observed and written about with Warhol’s trademark deadpan charm.


Heather recommends Shocking Paris: Soutine, Chagall and the Outsiders of Montparnasse by Stanley Meisler (759.4 M515)

You may know something about the School of Paris, a group of painters and sculptors-including greats such as Modigliani and Chagall-who emigrated between the two World Wars and dominated the Montparnasse art scene. But have you heard of Chaim Soutine? Many School of Paris painters considered him to be their most talented contemporary. Soutine was intense, the archetypal tortured artist, and this shows in his demented landscapes, which first captured my attention during a visit to Musee de L’Orangerie in Paris. This book explores the short, tumultuous life of one of the most quietly influential artists of the Twentieth Century. You can see one of his paintings closer to home at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (The Russian, Portrait of Woman), or ask a librarian to help you find images of my favorite landscapes, “Arbre Couche”, online.

Taryn recommends Julia Morgan: Architect of Beauty by Mark A. Wilson (720.92 M84w)

In this gorgeously illustrated book you’ll learn so much about the talented lady who recently won AIA’s Gold Medal for excellence.

and Bernard Maybeck: Architect of Elegance by Mark A. Wilson (720.92 M46wi)

This author, who is a regular speaker at The Mechanics’ Institute hits a home run with this beautiful volume.

and Enamored with Place: As Woman and As Architect by Wendy Bertrand (720.92 B551)

Written by a Mechanics Institute member, this is a good read, memoir, travel, architecture and interesting relationships all in one book!

Diane recommends, for the fiction readers, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan and The Women by T.C. Boyle.

Frank Lloyd Wright was an architect of renown, who built houses of enduring beauty and style –many of which I have toured and loved. However, he was also a man who was selfish, egotistical, and a womanizer. The novels, Loving Frank and The Women explore Wright’s fascinating personal life through the women who loved him.

and Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Louis Comfort Tiffany designed and created beautiful stained glass creations (windows, lamps, etc.) that were first featured at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Unknown until the late 20th Century, Clara Driscoll was the actual designer behind many of the iconic Tiffany lampshade designs including the Daffodil and Dragonfly designs. Clara and Mr.Tiffany relates Clara’s story and her relationship with Mr. Tiffany in the early 1900’s as a valuable, but dispensable (because she was a woman), artist in the Tiffany workshop.

Kristin also recommends for the fiction readers The Great Man by Kate Christensen

This book focuses on the mostly female survivors of a fictional New York painter whose art and life were built around dominating women. In different ways, all of these women come to terms with what the painter turned their lives into. It’s a bittersweet read.

and The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier

An unusual and interesting historical novel based on the creation of what is considered to be one of the finest medieval tapestries of the same name (Lady and the Unicorn). Tracy Chevalier gives her readers a sense of place and insight into the complex world of tapestry weaving.

Posted on Sep. 14, 2015 by Kristin McCarthy

DVD Selections: Documentaries

Think documentaries are just talking heads?  Think again!  Documentary filmmaking can be highly creative, visually stimulating, and full of surprises. Whether you’re looking for the historical, political, or personal, our collection of documentaries on DVD covers it all.

Kevin recommends:

Herb & Dorothy, a sweet story about a librarian and a postal clerk living in New York City who, surprisingly, are also big-time art collectors.  Their tiny one-bedroom apartment is packed with art from the likes of Richard Tuttle, Julian Schnabel, Pat Steir and many more. Finally, hoarders with good taste!

Also, The Gleaners and I is a fun and thought-provoking film from celebrated French director Agnes Varda, who travels around France to interview various types of gleaners--- those who pick up what others leave behind. The director is front and center on screen, infusing the film with all of her usual charm and whimsy. 

Ellen recommends:

Born into Brothels   While documenting life in the brothels of India, photographer Zana Briski embarked on a project to transform the lives of the children of prostitutes. Giving a small group of these children disposable cameras, she shows them how to use them and lets them run free. Their photographs and Briski's public showing of them leads to opportunities they may have never had. Opportunities that may help them break out of the circumstances they were born into.


Jiro Dreams of Sushi  If you ever wondered why there is such a fuss made over sushi, this documentary may explain it. 85-year-old Jiro Ono owns an internationally famous, hole-in-the-wall, 10-seat sushi restaurant, and is considered to be the world's greatest sushi chef. Part of the documentary is about the ingredients that make his sushi world renowned. Think rice is just rice? Think again.

Taryn recommends:

Sutro's the Palace at Land's End Glorious photos and commentary of the baths/museum/resort in our own backyard!

Kristin recommends:

Man On Wire In 1974, a young gutsy Frenchman runs a wire between New York's twin towers and walks across it! This documentary shows how he did it and the challenges he encounters while doing it.

Both Kristen and Heather recommend Grey Gardens!  A look into high society dropouts, Big and Little Edie Beale's unconventional lifestyle in the East Hamptons. As odd as these ladies are you just can't but love them! -Kristen

The women live in squalor at Grey Gardens, a derelict mansion – although, it must be said, Little Edie’s style is always impeccably eccentric-chic. Grey Gardens employs the techniques of direct cinema – a precursor of the reality TV genre – to allow the subjects of the film to tell their stories with little narrative interference from the filmmakers. –Heather

And, Sarah whole-heartedly recommends Searching for Sugar Man. “If I have to pick one, it is Searching for Sugar Man, which was released a few years ago and I will recommend it until my end of days. You don't have to be familiar with the music of Sixto Rodriguez, but he is a modern day saint and this film would bring any warm blooded human to tears (of joy).”

Posted on Aug. 14, 2015 by Kevin Coleman

Staff Picks: Ladies in the Library

Women make up roughly 50% of the world, yet they are often underrepresented in the culture at large, as the title of one of this month’s selections (The rumors of our progress have been greatly exaggerated by Carolyn Maloney) points out. Women are our mothers, daughters, sisters, lovers, friends. They do amazing things, shameful things, interesting things, ridiculous things – both flawed and fantastic, they often change the world. This month, Mechanics’ Institute Library staff select books by and about all the whip-smart, rebellious, fascinating women who have changed our worlds.

Kristin recommends…

Flappers by Judith Mackrell  (920.72 M159)

The 1920's as seen through the lives of six independent women. Flappers captures the giddy energy of the era, filled with parties, affairs, cocktails, and sadly – a few heartaches. Embrace your inner flapper and read this book!

Heather recommends…

We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie  (305.42 A235)

The author of the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Americanah, Adichie offers up this slim book as a primer for the uninitiated. In straightforward prose, the author unpacks the widespread cultural resistance to feminism – showing how the idea of “the f-word” is so often limited by stereotypes, and how its concepts might form the basis for a fairer society in which all members of a community can be empowered to become truer to themselves.




Ana Castillo Peel my love like an onion

Audre Lorde Zami: a new spelling of my name

Lisa Lutz The Spellman files

Virginia Woolf Mrs. Dalloway


Antonia Murphy Dirty chick: adventures of an unlikely farmer 636 M978

Carolyn Burke No regrets: the life of Edith Piaf 780.92 P57bn

Phoebe Hoban Alice Neel: the art of not sitting pretty 750.92 N378

Patricia Albers Shadows, fire, snow: the life of Tina Modotti 92 M692

Deirdre Bair Anais Nin: a biography 92 N714b

Jean H. Baker Margaret Sanger: a life of passion 92 S223b

Evelyne Bloch-Dano Madame Proust: a biography 92 P968

Valerie Boyd Wrapped in rainbows: the life of Zora Neale Hurston 92 H9595b

Matthew Dennison Behind the mask: the life of Vita Sackville-West 92 S1215d

Kirstin Downey The woman behind the New Deal: the life of Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor & his moral conscience 92 P448d

Gillian Gill Nightingales: the extraordinary upbringing & curious life of Miss Florence Nightingale 92 N688

Mary Gordon Circling my mother 92 G6642

Francine du Plessix Gray Madame de Stael: the first modern woman 92 S778

Joan, Maid of Orleans 92 J43g

Diane Jacobs Her own woman: the life of Mary Wollstonecraft 92 G592j

Mary Karr Lit: a memoir 92 K187L

Maxine Hong Kingston The woman warrior: memoirs of a girlhood among ghosts 92 K563

Judith Mackrell Flappers: six women of a dangerous generation 920.72 M159

Benjamin Moser Why this world: a biography of Clarice Lispector 92 L769

Aife Murray Maid as muse: how servants changed Emily Dickinson's life & language 92 D553m

Roger Poole The unknown Virginia Woolf 92 W909po

The diaries of Dawn Powell, 1931-1965 92 P8825

Barbara Reynolds Dorothy L. Sayers: her life & soul 92 S2742r

Glynis Ridley The discovery of Jeanne Baret: a story of science, the high seas & the first woman to circumnavigate the globe 92 B248

Mary Robinson Everybody matters: my life giving voice 92 R663e

Julie Salamon Wendy & the lost boys: the uncommon life of Wendy Wasserstein 92 W32s

Stacey Schiff Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) 92 N11v

Miranda Seymour Mary Shelley 92 S5445se

Calvin Trillin About Alice 92 T829a

Jennifer Uglow George Eliot 92 E42u

The memoirs of Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun 92 V673

Evelyn C. White Alice Walker: a life 92 W177

Jeanette Winterson Why be happy when you could be normal? 92 W788

Marjane Satrapi Persepolis 92 S253 v.1

Hanne Blank The unapologetic fat girl's guide to exercise & other incendiary acts 613.71 B642

Lisa Krissoff Boehm Making a way out of no way: African American women & the second great migration 305.48 B671

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie We should all be feminists 305.42 A235

David B. Axelrod, Carol F. Thomas, Lenny Schneir Merlin Stone remembered: her life & works 305.42 S879

Andrea Barnet All-night party: the women of bohemian Greenwich Village & Harlem, 1913-1930 305.4 B261

Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Sophie Mas, Caroline De Maigret How to be Parisian wherever you are: love, style & bad habits 305.4 B491

Susan Bordo Unbearable weight: feminism, Western culture & the body 305.42 B72

Geraldine Brooks Nine parts of desire: the hidden world of Islamic women 305.48 B87

Gail Collins When everything changed: the amazing journey of American women from 1960 to the present 305.4 C71w

Virginie Despentes King Kong theory 305.42 D468

Eve Ensler Insecure at last: losing it in our security-obsessed world 305.42 E59

The essential feminist reader 305.42 E78

Femen Femen 305.4 F328

Marilyn French From Eve to dawn: a history of women: volume 1: origins 305.42 F87 v.1

Vivian Gornick The solitude of self: thinking about Elizabeth Cady Stanton 305.42 S792

Linley Erin Hall Who's afraid of Marie Curie?: the challenges facing women in science & technology 305.43 H17

Ayaan Hirsi Ali The caged virgin: an emancipation proclamation for women & Islam 305.48 H66

Laura Kipnis The female thing: dirt, sex, envy, vulnerability 305.42 K57

Carolyn B. Maloney Rumors of our progress have been greatly exaggerated: why women's lives aren't getting any easier-- & how we can make real progress for ourselves & our daughters 305.42 M257

Wendy Merrill Falling into manholes: the memoir of a bad/good girl 305.4 M571

Nothing but the truth so help me God: 51 women reveal the power of positive female connection 305.4 N912

Deborah Siegel Sisterhood, interrupted: from radical women to grrls gone wild 305.42 S571

Rebecca Solnit Men explain things to me 305.42 S688

Women's letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the present 305.4 W871

Julie Zeilinger A little f'd up: why feminism is not a dirty word 305.42 Z46

Kia Afcari & Mary Osborne Sister surfer: a woman's guide to surfing with bliss & courage 797.32 A25

Kara Goucher Kara Goucher's running for women: from first steps to marathons 796.42 G688

Posted on Aug. 10, 2015 by Heather Terrell

DVD Selections: France on Film

With Bastille Day just around the corner, now is a great time to celebrate the rich history of France and their films. From the 50’s pioneering French New Wave movement, to the 80’s and 90’s flashy Cinema Du Look, to a recent move towards social-realism, France has and continues to be a main player in the global cinema scene. In addition to our favorite films produced by that country, we have also selected a few with settings in France. Our love affair with the literature, food and culture of France runs deep, and Americans have frequently paid tribute in their own works. Below are just a few of the many titles currently available from the 2nd floor DVD display, come check them out!

Heather recommends the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and his particular style of playful, weird, and wonderful filmmaking. 

Delicatessen  is a comedy, of sorts, set in a post-apocalyptic famine-ridden world; the story centers around an apartment building above a deli run by a butcher who finds, shall we say, *creative ways* to feed his tenants. The City of Lost Children is inhabited by a mad scientist who steals children’s dreams to fuel his own existence; it's a disturbing but beautifully rendered film. Amélie, Jeunet’s most well-known feature, retains all of the surreality of his earlier films, but takes a charming turn as a romantic comedy with a twisty plot. Mechanics’ Institute Library owns these DVDs, as well as most of Jeunet's other films in French A Very Long Engagement and Micmacs for your viewing pleasure.


Deb recommends The Pink Panther, which introduces us to Peter Sellers' hilarious Inspector Clouseau and stars some well known actors of the time, as well as the sequel A Shot in the Dark, a fun romp reprising Seller’s bumbling Clouseau role.

and The French Chef with Julia Child, which includes 18 episodes of her original 1960's series. Included are downloadable recipes for starters, side dishes, main courses and desserts. This series pairs well with Julie & Julia, which depicts Julia Child's life with her husband in Paris while Queens resident Julie Powell decides to cook every recipe in the cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking (641.5944 C53m) over the course of one year.     

Taryn recommends Lola Montez.

No one was more ravishing than Lola Montez - especially when she performed her signature spider dance! Masterpiece or flop? In brilliant Technicolor, this will keep cinephiles and story lovers talking.

and Moliere. A fanciful, lushly filmed biography of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, a.k.a. Moliére, the 17th century French playwright. Get ready for coquettes, cuckolds, and croissants!

Chris recommends The Secret of the Grain.

Recently laid off, aging family patriarch Slimane decides to invest the rest of his money and energy into a restaurant showcasing the exceptionally good couscous of his ex-wife Souad. Their extended family then takes center stage, as they eat, laugh, drink and fight together, coaxing Slimane’s dream into being. As though Mike Leigh were airlifted from London and placed on the coast of France, widening his emotional palette without losing his keen ear for conversation, director Abdellatif Kechiche pays a complex and understated tribute to family and the social realities of immigrant communities in France.

Posted on Jul. 10, 2015 by Chris Taylor

Staff Picks: Splendid Summer Reading

The days are longer, maybe a little lazier. You might even be tempted to use a sick day for a beach day. C’mon, what else are you planning to use all the extra daylight for, but to read by it! This month, Mechanics’ Institute’s staff bibliophiles recommend interesting, immersive fiction that we consider un-put-downable! Come check out the display and see if you agree.

A few recommendations to whet your appetite:

Chris recommends Outline by Rachel Cusk.

A quiet book of deep observation and insight, Outline follows narrator Faye during her brief teaching stint in Greece, primarily through the interactions she has with others, many fellow travelers like herself. Conversationally withholding, we glean Faye's personality and worldview through her internal assessments of those she meets. Autobiographical in a uniquely indirect manner, this look into strategies and habits of self-representation is highly intelligent, readable and original.

Deb recommends The Beekeeper's Apprentice and the other Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King.

I love Sherlock Holmes and when I stumbled upon the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King, I was able to continue my enjoyment of his adventures written from a woman's point of view who is a true match for his intellect and wit.

Heather also recommends So Much For That by Lionel Shriver.

I’ve made the pronouncement so many times, my friends are tired of hearing it: Lionel Shriver is one of the best writers of our generation. Everything about her works is atypical – she can’t be pigeonholed into a “type” of story – whether she’s writing about the risks of motherhood (We Need to Talk About Kevin), the perils of self-righteousness (Game Control), or smug terrorists caught in a cult of personality (The New Republic), Shriver’s expertise is in writing characters as if she doesn’t care whether you like them or not. Most often, you don’t (I despised the narrator of her most recent book, Big Brother, for instance). So Much For That is my favorite of her books – there’s no flinching at the interconnected trauma inflicted by the health care system, multi-layered family dynamics, and the strange jealousies that overtake the characters in this novel.


Zadie Smith White teeth

Daniel Alarcon Lost City Radio

Niccolo Ammaniti I'm not scared

Benjamin Anastas The faithful narrative of a pastor's disappearance

Alaa al Aswany Chicago

Alessandro Baricco Ocean sea

Richard Bausch Before, during, after

Matt Bell In the house upon the dirt between the lake & the woods

Naomi Benaron Running the rift

Roberto Bolano Woes of the true policeman

Agota Bozai To err is divine

Mike Bryan The afterword

NoViolet Bulawayo We need new names

A.S. Byatt A whistling woman

Angela Carter The magic toyshop

Anita Desai Fasting, feasting

Charlotte Greig A girl's guide to modern European philosophy

Daniel Handler We are pirates

Kaui Hart Hemmings The possibilities

Sheila Heti How should a person be?

Lindsay Hill Sea of Hooks

Takahashi Hiraide The guest cat

Eva Hoffman Appassionata

Dara Horn A guide for the perplexed

Gil Hornby The hive

Nick Hornby How to be good

Michel Houellebecq The elementary particles

Tom McCarthy Remainder

Leah Stewart The myth of you & me

Jessica Maria Tuccelli Glow

Padma Viswanathan The toss of a lemon

Wendy Wasserstein Elements of style

David Whitehouse Bed

Gene Wilder My French whore

Gabrielle Williams Beatle meets Destiny

Meg Wolitzer The wife

Daniel Woodrell The death of Sweet Mister

Tiphanie Yanique Land of love & drowning

Banana Yoshimoto The lake

Yu Hua Brothers

Alejandro Zambra; translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell Ways of going home

Jenny Offill Dept. of speculation

D. E. Stevenson; with a new preface by Aline Templeton Miss Buncle's book

Rachel Cusk Outline

Alex Gilvarry From the memoirs of a non-enemy combatant

Paolo Giordano The solitude of prime numbers

Eliza Granville Gretel & the dark

Miranda July The first bad man

Lionel Shriver So much for that

John Boyne This house is haunted

Anita Diamant The Boston girl

Peter Ackroyd The casebook of Victor Frankenstein

Antonia Arslan; translated from the Italian by Geoffrey Brock Skylark Farm

Aryeh Lev Stollman The illuminated soul

Leo Tolstoy; translated from the Russian by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky War & peace

Sarah Jamila Stevenson The Latte Rebellion

Tonino Benacquista ; translated by Emily Read Malavita

Michael Gregorio Days of atonement

Joanne Harris Gentlemen & players

Terry Hayes I am Pilgrim: a thriller

Laurie R. King The art of detection

Jon Stock Dirty little secret

Helene Tursten; translated by Katarina E. Tucker The torso

John Brandon A million heavens

Neil Gaiman The ocean at the end of the lane: [a novel]

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie The thing around your neck

Robin Black If I loved you, I would tell you this: stories

Robert Olen Butler A good scent from a strange mountain: stories

Guo Songfen; edited & with an introduction by John Balcom Running mother & other stories

David Guterson Problems with People: Stories

Koji Suzuki; translation, Glynne Walley Birthday

Yoko Tawada; translated & with an afterword by Margaret Mitsutani Facing the bridge

Laurie R. King The god of the hive: a novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes

Kurt Vonnegut Galapagos

Julia Alvarez How the Garcia girls lost their accents

Margaret Atwood Oryx & Crake

Richard Brautigan In watermelon sugar

Mikhail Afanasʹevich Bulgakov The master & Margarita

Hortense Calisher The novellas of Hortense Calisher

Amy Ephron A cup of tea

William Gaddis J R

Peter Høeg; translated by Barbara Haveland The history of Danish dreams

Laurie R. King The beekeeper's apprentice: or, On the segregation of the queen

Vladimir Nabokov Despair

Carol Olwell; commentary by Judith Lynch Waldhorn A gift to the street

Irvine Welsh Marabou stork nightmares

Jeanette Winterson Art & lies: a piece for three voices & a bawd

Posted on Jul. 6, 2015 by Heather Terrell

DVD Selections: LGBTQ Pride


With the annual Pride parade making its way down Market Street in just a few weeks, we honor the legacy of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer individuals by highlighting some of our favorite films that have been created for, by or about the community. From politically charged documentaries to campy and fun fare, below are just a few of the many titles currently available from the 2nd floor DVD display, come check them out!

Kevin recommends High Art.

Don't miss Ally Sheedy in her comeback role as Lucy Berliner, a once famous photographer now living a reclusive life with her heroin-addicted, German actress girlfriend, played by Patricia Clarkson.  Lucy begins to fall in love with her younger (and straight) neighbor, Syd, after a chance meeting and, of course, things get complicated.

Craig recommends The Boys in the Band.

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


Taryn recommends The Oscar Wilde Collection.

Always the life of the party, Wilde was effete, outlandish and utterly genius!

Chris recommends Behind the Candelabra.

Utterly earnest and generous onstage, yet enigmatic in his personal life, Liberace was an entertainer of the highest order.  Based on a controversial tell-all book written by his former boyfriend, Scott Thorson, we are witness to their clandestine relationship in all of its love, instability and banality. Playful and admiring with sharp dialogue, the film also serves as Steven Soderbergh’s final effort (for now at least) as a feature director.

Posted on Jun. 11, 2015 by Chris Taylor

Staff Recommendations: Pride Picks

In June, the city of San Francisco – and the world – commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riots, which paved the way for the Gay Liberation Movement, with Pride events and the iconic parade, held on June 28th this year. The purpose of LGBT Pride month is to recognize the historical impacts made by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. In honor of the contributions of these individuals to our collective cultural heritage, this month Mechanics’ Institute staff members select some of our favorite works by LGBTQ authors, about LGBTQ characters, and exploring subjects relevant to the LGBTQ community.

Chris recommends Fun Home : a family tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (741.5 B391)

Recently adapted into a successful Broadway musical, Bechdel's memoir recalls her relationship with her father, a gifted intellectual grappling with his homosexuality as a closeted man in a small town. When Alison goes off to college and comes out as gay, tensions rise back home. Both humorous and tragic, Fun Home is a brilliant coming of age story awash with literary reference and personal insight, uniquely told and illustrated.

Kevin recommends Now Is The Hour by Tom Spanbauer (FIC)

You'll get hooked on this funny, deeply moving coming-of-age tale that's not afraid to tell the messy truth about family, religion, growing up and falling in love. You could even say it's the coming-of-age, gay romance set in 1967 rural Idaho that you've been waiting for!

Taryn recommends The Drinker by Hans Fallada (FIC)

A prominent early 20th century German writer, Fallada was horribly injured as a child which marked his life with isolation, self-doubt, and crippling pain. His emerging homosexuality and society's increasing homophobia led to a bungled suicide pact and a lifelong addiction to morphine and alcohol. A gifted writer, Fallada's prose in The Drinker drags the reader deeply into the spiral of alcohol addiction……when you claw your way back to the surface you will greedily read Fallada's other books. 

Heather recommends White Girls by Hilton Als (814 A461)

Hilton Als reads race, gender, and culture like a modern artist slashing paint across the canvas – or like a musician improvising beats onstage, a verbal jam that spins so fast you can barely keep up, even though you’re setting your own reading pace. And that’s just talking about style. The great Junot Díaz calls White Girls a must-read, which was why I picked it up in the first place, but then I couldn’t put it down again, even when I’d read it all. That is to say, it sticks with you. (That’s talking about content.) In these essays, you’ll find insight on identity and sexuality, exploration of voice and the acquisition of knowledge. Whether he’s writing about the over-exposed Truman Capote or the under-appreciated Henry Dumas, Als is one of those people you imagine as a thrilling IRL raconteur with a searing intellect and a sizzling tongue. That is to say, he gets under your skin, makes you think about what it’s like to live the lives of others. This is one of those books you come away from, your head so crowded with thoughts that you can hardly bear it, but still – hungry for more.


Dorothy Allison Two or three things I know for sure

Carol Anshaw Lucky in the corner

Djuna Barnes Nightwood: the original version & related drafts Before Stonewall: activists for gay & lesbian rights in historical context

John Boswell Same-sex unions in premodern Europe

Melvin Jules Bukiet Strange fire

David Carter Stonewall: the riots that sparked the gay revolution

George Chauncey Gay New York: gender, urban culture & the making of the gay male world, 1890-1940

Sally Cline Radclyffe Hall: a woman called John

Samuel R. Delany The motion of light in water: sex & science fiction writing in the East Village, 1957-1965

Samuel R. Delany Times Square red, Times Square blue

Tom Dolby The trouble boy

Lillian Faderman Odd girls & twilight lovers: a history of lesbian life in twentieth-century America

Philip Gambone Beijing

Alan Helms Young man from the provinces: a gay life before Stonewall

Andrew Holleran The beauty of men Love makes a family: portraits of lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender parents & their families

Paul Kafka-Gibbons Dupont Circle

Jonathan Ned Katz Love stories: sex between men before homosexuality

Elisabeth Ladenson Proust's lesbianism

David Leavitt While England sleeps

Mabel Maney The case of the good-for-nothing girlfriend: a Nancy Clue mystery

Eric Marcus Making gay history: the half-century fight for lesbian & gay equal rights

Deirdre McCloskey Crossing: a memoir

Diana McLellan The girls: Sappho goes to Hollywood

Joanne Meyerowitz How sex changed: a history of transsexuality in the United States

David Moats Civil wars: a battle for gay marriage

Achy Obejas We came all the way from Cuba so you could dress like this?: stories Pages passed from hand to hand: the hidden tradition of homosexual literature in English from 1748 to 1914

Felice Picano Like people in history

Dan Savage The kid: (what happened after my boyfriend & I decided to go get pregnant): an adoption story

Sarah Schulman Rat bohemia

Randy Shilts The mayor of Castro Street: the life & times of Harvey Milk

Alan Sinfield Out on stage: lesbian & gay theatre in the twentieth century Baby Precious always shines: selected love notes between Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas

David Strah Gay dads: a celebration of gay fatherhood

Ronald Tierney Eclipse of the heart

Monique Truong The book of salt

Edmund White The burning library: writings on art, politics & sexuality 1969-1993

Edmund White The married man Wrestling with the angel: faith & religion in the lives of gay men We do: a celebration of gay & lesbian marriage

Alan Hollinghurst The line of beauty

Peter Parker Isherwood: a life revealed

Darcey Steinke Milk

Deborah Rudacille The riddle of gender: science, activism & transgender rights

Michelle Tea The beautiful: collected poems

Alan Downs The velvet rage: overcoming the pain of growing up gay in a straight man's world

Hans Fallada The drinker

Dan Savage The commitment: love, sex, marriage & my family

Aaron Hamburger Faith for beginners

Matt Houlbrook Queer London: perils & pleasures in the sexual metropolis, 1918-1957

Richard Tagett Breaking the silence: epistles Hitched!: wedding stories from San Francisco City Hall

Michelle Tea Rose of no man's land

Joe Keenan My lucky star The collected poems: with notes toward the memoirs

Tahar Ben Jelloun The last friend

Josh Kilmer-Purcell I am not myself these days: a memoir

Barry McCrea The first verse

Alison Bechdel Fun home: a family tragicomic

Tom Spanbauer Now is the hour

Lillian Faderman & Stuart Timmons Gay L.A.: a history of sexual outlaws, power politics & lipstick lesbians

Marcia M. Gallo Different daughters: a history of the Daughters of Bilitis & the rise of the lesbian rights movement

William Lipsky Gay & lesbian San Francisco Baby remember my name: an anthology of new queer girl writing

Peter Plate Soon the rest will fall

Christopher Bram Exiles in America

Michael Schiefelbein Body & blood

Michael Thomas Ford Changing tides

Catherine McCall Lifeguarding: a memoir of secrets, swimming & the South

Ali Smith Girl meets boy: the myth of Iphis

Nancy D. Polikoff Beyond (straight & gay) marriage: valuing all families under the law

Stephanie Grant Map of Ireland

Alain Claude Sulzer A perfect waiter

Timothy James Beck When you don't see me

Russell Bush Affectionate men: a photographic history of a century of male couples (1850's to 1950's)

Jill Malone Red Audrey & the roping

Stella Duffy Mouths of babes

Joanne Passet Sex variant woman: the life of Jeannette Howard Foster

Maureen Seaton Sex talks to girls: a memoir

Elinor Lipman The family man

William J. Mann Object of desire

Jack Fritscher Stonewall: stories of gay liberation

Peter Gadol Silver Lake

Edmund White City boy: my life in New York during the 1960s & 70s

Leila J. Rupp Sapphistries: a global history of love between women

Terry Castle The professor & other writings

Amie Klempnauer Miller She looks just like you: a memoir of (nonbiological lesbian) motherhood

Wendy Moffat A great unrecorded history: a new life of E.M. Forster

Carlos A. Ball From the closet to the courtroom: five LGBT rights lawsuits that have changed our nation

Stephen McCauley Insignificant others

Justin Spring Secret historian: the life & times of Samuel Steward, professor, tattoo artist & sexual renegade

Charles Higham In & out of Hollywood: a biographer's memoir

Will Fellows & Helen P. Branson Gay bar: the fabulous, true story of a daring woman & her boys in the 1950s

David Levithan Boy meets boy

Max Schaefer Children of the sun

Craig Chester Adam & Steve

Michael Sledge The more I owe you

Jodi Picoult Sing you home

Rupert Smith Man's world Gay in America

Sally Bellerose The Girls Club

Ian Holding Of beasts & beings

James C. Hormel & Erin Martin Fit to serve: reflections on a secret life, private struggle & public battle to become America's first openly gay U.S. ambassador

Meredith Maran A theory of small earthquakes

Jeanette Winterson Why be happy when you could be normal?

Kim Stanley Robinson 2312

Linda Hirshman Victory: the triumphant gay revolution

David M. Halperin How to be gay

Sarah Schulman The gentrification of the mind: witness to a lost imagination

John Rechy City of night

Madeleine George The difference between you & me

Emily M. Danforth The miseducation of Cameron Post

Virginia Woolf Orlando: a biography

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore The end of San Francisco

Sara Farizan If you could be mine

Wally Lamb We are water

Kristin Elizabeth Clark Freakboy

Alysia Abbott Fairyland: a memoir of my father

E. M. Forster A room with a view ; Howards end ; Maurice

Hilton Als White girls

Audre Lorde Zami: a new spelling of my name

Tess Sharpe Far from you

Francine Prose Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932

Edan Lepucki California

Suzanna Danuta Walters The tolerance trap: how God, genes & good intentions are sabotaging gay equality

Amin Ghaziani There goes the gayborhood?

Terry Mutchler Under this beautiful dome: a senator, a journalist & the politics of gay love in America

Robbie Rogers with Eric Marcus Coming out to play

Robert Beachy Gay Berlin: birthplace of a modern identity

Posted on Jun. 3, 2015 by Heather Terrell

DVD Selections: Sports on Film

With Oakland’s own Warriors shining in the NBA playoffs, what better time than now to celebrate the athleticism, discipline, and drama of our favorite past time. On the 2nd floor DVD display, you will find a selection of our most beloved sports titles from the Mechanics’ collection. These films reveal what it takes to be the best in the game, on and off the field.

Heather recommends Rocky

Shot in 28 days, the original 1976 version is a timeless film about underdogs, persistence, loss, and above all, love. Rocky Balboa is a charming loser, trying to make it big as a boxer, but his big heart often gets in the way of his success. This film has humor, struggle, and sweetness. It’s one of my favorite Stallone films (Oscar is the other), and maybe one of my favorite films, period.

and The Karate Kid

I haven’t watched this since I wore out the VHS tape at an 8th grade slumber party, and it inspired my entire family to take karate classes. My sister still has her black belt somewhere, I’m certain. It’s as much about karate as it is about perseverance in the face of loneliness, bullying, boredom, and star-crossed romance -- definitely a teen angst film for the ages. Fear does not exist in this dojo, does it? NO, SENSEI !!


Craig recommends Bull Durham

Really a romantic comedy sports film, released back in 1988, starring Kevin Costner (Crash) as a veteran catcher brought in to teach a rookie pitcher (Nuke), played by Tim Robbins, about the game in preparation for the Major Leagues. Susan Sarandon plays a baseball groupie who romances Nuke, but is increasingly attracted to Crash.

Taryn recommends Chariots of Fire

Put the theme song on your playlist and go for the gold!

and Seabiscuit

Hold onto your hats, this film recounts a time when horse racing was at its peak! The book is thrilling as well.

Chris recommends Hoop Dreams

In 1995, this masterpiece received critical and commercial success, then a rarity for documentaries, thanks to the loyal support of the great film critic Roger Ebert. Shot in Ebert’s hometown of Chicago over a period of five years, two gifted basketball players from the neglected, violence-ridden and since demolished Cabrini-Green projects are recruited into a suburban, private high school on sports scholarships. The film follows their struggles and successes on their road toward adulthood and the NBA. Don't be put off by the three hour long running time, Hoop Dreams is peerless in its portrayal of basketball and its players within the context of a socially stratified city.

Posted on May. 18, 2015 by Chris Taylor

Staff Picks:Bibliophilia

Libraries have been in the business of books for centuries, from the cuneiform repositories of Sumer to the digital holdings at Bexar County Bibliotech. We bookworms love to read, no matter the format, and this month, Mechanics’ Institute staff select books which reflect certain bibliophilic tendencies. A few selections you’ll find on the display, this month, include:

Heather recommends…

The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin (809.39 B542)

Structured like a reference book, the reader of The Novel Cure can look up her ailment and -- voila! – an appropriate novel will be provided as an antidote to one’s woes. Whether you’re plagued by agoraphobia, cowardice, or midlife crisis – Berthoud has you covered!

Chris recommends…

Always apprentices : the Believer magazine presents twenty-two conversations between writers edited by Vendela Vida, Ross Simonini, and Sheila Heti (809 A477)

Compiling previously published material from the Bay Area's own Believer magazine, these interviews highlight some of contemporary literature's most fascinating writers in conversation with one another. Great pairings (Don DeLillo with Bret Easton Ellis!) and often in front of a live audiences (ensuring quick, genuine responses), these exchanges are animated, illuminating, and inspiring.

A few more recommendations…

Republic of Imagination: America in three books by Azar Nafisi (92N 139r)

The author of Reading Lolita in Tehran returns with an emphatic response to a skeptical reader who posits that Americans don’t care about books – Nafisi argues that fiction has much to teach us, and she supports her point with close readings of her favorite American novels. This passionate polemic on reading fiction will have you cheering along with the other citizens of the Republic of Imagination. Vive le Rêve!

Why We Read What We Read: a delightfully opinionated journey through contemporary bestsellers by Lisa Adams and John Heath (028.9 A21)

The authors peruse two hundred bestselling books to identify common themes and what our reading choices might say about us. This is a humorous book, including lots of interesting factoids to impress your friends. For instance, did you know that over a million Americans read more than fifty nearly-identical books every year?  -- uh oh, will your strange reading habits show up in this book?

On Rereading by Patricia Meyer Spacks (028.9 S73)

A retired literature teacher decides to spend a year rereading novels: those she read as a child, books she often rereads, guilty pleasures, and academic darlings included. She raises interesting questions about why we reread books whose plots we already know – what psychological needs does rereading fulfill, and why do we so often choose old favorites rather than exploring new stories?

Posted on May. 4, 2015 by Heather Terrell