Staff Reads — October 28, 2016


Welcome to a special Halloween edition of Staff Reads!

Jan: I read The Science of TV’s The Big Bang Theory by Dave Zobel. You definitely don’t need to be a wannabe nerd to enjoy this- it’s surprisingly funny enough for any fan. With a forward by Howard Joel Wolowitz (yes, the real live one) it gives you readable explanations of the places in the scripts that say [science to come]. One example: “Later…Sheldon tries to make a rhetorical point about scientific inspiration by asking scornfully, “Was the apple falling on Newton’s head…just an anecdote?” Gee, Sheldon, yes it was. There’s no evidence that Newton was ever hit on the head-other than metaphorically-by an apple…Surely anyone smart enough to invent calculus could figure out how gravity works without intervention from Granny Smith.”

Lisa: I’m reading Because of Mr. Terupt. I first noticed it when it was on the summer reading list of one of the local private schools. I was arranging books when I saw a different cover with wording that presented the book in a more detailed way that I found intriguing. “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” works for me in the figurative sense, but I frequently decide which books I’ll read by the appeal of their covers.


    Since I was on vacation, I was able to indulge in my favorite pass
    time–reading stories about musician and bands, preferably rock musicians and rock bands, and preferably Mick Jagger and the boys.
    Ever since the Rolling Stones came on the scene in the sixties, Mick has been my soul mate. We are born on the same day–but not the same year. And I know if I ever found myself in his company, we would fall deeply, madly in love and no groupie or Yoko Ono type could ever break us or the band up. That’s how strong our bond would be.
    I digress…..

  • I read first The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones written by Rich Cohen. Cohen, a journalist for Vanity Fair, traveled with the band in the 1990’s and boy did he have fun. Cohen was also the co-creator of HBO”s failed Vinyl. I tried to like that show because my sweetie, Mick was involved in the writing, but I just couldn’t like it and I guess no one else did either. Cohen’s book begins with the fateful meeting of Jagger and Richards meeting while waiting for a train and Jagger was holding a clutch of blues albums and continues until Cohen comes on the scene. Well written and funny, Cohen loves the Rolling Stones as much as I do. Even though I knew many of the stories, Cohen brings his personal clever writing style to a great read.
  • Next I read Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hell’s Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock’s Darkest Day by Joel Selvin.
    Of course, I had read about this and saw the documentary, but Selvin’s book is deeply researched. He spent over thirty years researching and interviewing about that fateful day, December 6. 1969. A fascinating, frightening tale of poor planning,a bad site, bad drugs, and Hell’s Angel’s paid with 500 dollars worth of wine to be security.
    A not fun read for lovers of the Rolling Stones and lovers of disaster stories.



  • Girl through Glass by Sari Wilson: In the 1970’s, 11 year old Mira Able is a promising ballet dancer with hopes of attending George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet in New York City. Flash forward to present day, Kate Randell is a former ballet student, looking to land a permanent job as a professor of ballet history. Told through alternating timelines, the book slowly reveals how the two are connected (though it’s easy to guess). The book’s descriptions are intense, fascinating, and often unsettling. I am a great fan of ballet, and I was fascinated to read about this world. There is a sense of mystery, and sometimes, the book seems to go for cliches, but overall, I enjoyed the book, even if I found it profoundly and occasionally disturbing.
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, read by the author. (Downloadable audiobook): Coates (senior editor of The Atlantic) wrote this raw open letter to his son on what it means to be African-American in the United States. At times angry, this honest, loving, and moving letter to his adored son struck a nerve with this reader and gave me a lot of pause. Listening to Coates read made the experience all the more powerful.
  • Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill: Anyone who has watched the Zapruder home movie of the Kennedy assassination will recognize Mr. Hill as the secret service agent running towards Jacqueline Kennedy as she crawls onto the back of the car seconds after her husband’s shooting. Mr. Hill suffered much emotional pain after the shooting, thinking that he could have done more to prevent it. This book seems to have been a bit of a catharsis for him. He recounts, in a very respectful way, his time as Mrs. Kennedy’s personal Secret Service agent. The two embark on a friendly relationship and grow to highly respect each other. If you are looking for sensationalism, this book is not the right choice for you. But, if you are looking into a brief glimpse of a first family, or for the routine of a secret service agent, this is a fascinating read. I was really struck by the toll Mr. Hill’s work had on his life as a family man, and it made me a little sad for him.
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, read by Cassandra Campbell. (Downloadable audiobook): This book starts off with a doozy of a first line, “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” Marilyn and James Lee live in Ohio in the 1970’s with their three children, Nathan, Lydia, and Hannah. One morning, they discover that Lydia is missing, leading to a lot of self reflection for the remaining family members. Although Lydia’s eventual death serves as a catalyst, it is not the entire story, and instead sets up a series of flashbacks leaving the reader and the characters to wonder how this could have happened. Alternating third person points of view make for a well rounded set of characters, including Lydia. The haunting tone was beautifully conveyed through Campbell’s narration.
  • Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile: Charley Bordelon, mother of eleven year old Micah, formerly of Los Angeles and recently widowed, finds herself moving to Louisiana after inheriting her father’s sugarcane farm. She reconnects with several members of her family, including her estranged half brother, Ralph Angel, and grandmother, Miss Honey. The hardship of owning a farm, as well as the plight faced by the African-American farmer make this a very interesting read. While Charley is the main character and gets most of the character development, the side characters do get a decent amount of play. Be warned that if you are only familiar with the excellent television showing that is currently airing, the book is very different. There are several characters created for the show, and characters from the book who have been cut from the screen adaptations. Many of the characters who are in both versions only seem to share a name and nothing else. I was drawn to the book based on my enjoyment of the show, and I admit that I was a little thrown by the differences, but once I learned to see them as entirely separate properties, I just sat back and enjoyed both rides!
  • Pat A.: Crisis of Character. Written by a White House Secret Service Uniformed officer Gary Byrne. He was stationed outside the door of the Oval Office. He discloses his experiences with Hillary, Bill and how they operate. He considers the Clinton White House to be dysfunctional and scandalous. This is not the first book I have read about the Clintons.

    Camila: I read and watched Still Alice. I watched first and I loved the movie, but I wanted to know more about it so I decided to read the book, what is always good. I read the book in portuguese edition that we have in Waltham Library Para sempre Alice.

    Tory: Still reading the Temeraire series, so I just finished up Black Powder War. I’ve also been rereading the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels, which are more awesome than I remember! I read Mara Wilson’s book in about two days: Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame and really enjoyed it. Mara Wilson was the child actor who was in Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Miracle on 34th Street, and she writes about her experiences on those movies and much of her life since.

    Todd: It’s October so I’m getting ready for Halloween!


    Mary V.

    • The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd: This is the newest Bess Crawford story. It takes place during October, 1918. Bess is concerned about a patient who was brought to her medical station. He told the nursing staff that he is French, Bess heard him speaking fluent German in his delirium and he was wearing a tattered American uniform. Bess is injured during a strike and investigates this soldier while she is recovering.
    • Manitou Canyon by William Kent Krueger: This is the latest book in the Cork Corcoran series. If you like this series, this is typical and similar to the others.
    • Arrowood by Laura McHugh: Maureen had listed this book on the last blog. It is very good and very suspenseful, but I did not like how it ended.

    Pat O. I enjoyed The Perfect Girl by Gilly MacMillan; White Dresses, a memoir by Good Morning America journalist Mary Pflum Petereson. Just starting The Years of Zero: Coming of Age under the Khmer Rouge by Seng Ty, a powerful and disturbing story that most of us know nothing about–one of my nieces is from Cambodia and I really want to have some understanding of that country’s history.

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