Get Reviewing!

SUNY Geneseo is can’t-turn-the-pages-fast-enough-excited to launch NaRMo: National Book Review Month – one day into February and already many have heeded the call to @getreviewing!
NaRMoLytton Smith, a faculty member in the English Department here at SUNY Geneseo, has participated in National Novel Writing Months and National Poetry Writing Months, and is thrilled to see the products of such intensive generative cycles.

But where, he asks, is the space to review all this great contemporary writing?

We’re constantly hearing, for example, about the “death” of poetry, or of experimental writing, or the short-story, or books themselves. As Chrissy Montelli, writing on the Gandy Dancer blog (the SUNY system’s literary magazine) put it: “if you have to keep declaring, over and over, that poetry is dead, it can’t actually be dead.” The reason for repeated attempts to cremate the literary arts often boils down to lack of awareness: the writers of such articles haven’t found the scintillating contemporary writing that would convince them to put down pen, shrug off  misanthropy, and settle down to read some amazing writing, about which they could then write.

That amazing writing is out there, and NaRMo will provide readers with ways to find it, and reviewers with an excuse to shout it from the virtual rooftops.

NaRMo is a grass-roots organization, based at SUNY Geneseo, and dedicated to increasing the number of book reviews of writers from all styles and backgrounds during the month of February. A collaboration between SUNY Geneseo’s English Department and Milne Library, NaRMo intends to link readers through book reviews and to help initiate conversation about books from an assortment of genres including children’s books, drama, non-fiction, fiction and poetry. This is the first year NaRMo is up and running, and we encourage everyone to get reading and get reviewing! Whether it’s through the official NaRMo site, via a literary journal, or on an online store: post a review of a recent book you want the world to know about.

Please join in, whether on the NaRMo websiteTwitterFacebook, or in whatever part of the internet or the physical world makes sense to you: reviews on online retailers, notecards in people’s mailboxes, letters to friends.

 

 

Check it out: Hamlet curriculum guide

HamletThe Scout Report recommends this useful resource:

This Hamlet curriculum guide, assembled by the Folger Shakespeare Library, provides a substantial array of teacher resources. Here educators will find a synopsis of the play, an overview of the characters in graphic form, tips for teaching Shakespeare, a series of helpful frequently asked questions about teaching the Bard, two full Lesson Plans with handouts, and a page of short quotes from the play. The lesson plans, especially, provide a creative take on the classic text. One investigates Hamlet’s central dilemmas (the death of his father, the remarriage of his mother, and his inability to act). The second uses music to explore Shakespeare’s characters. [CNH]

What are we reading? Staff recommended reads for November

NovSliderAre you looking for a good book to read?  Hundreds of thousands of books are published each year, so how does one choose? Read on for several Milne Library staff  book recommendations for the month of November.

Business & Data Librarian Justina Elmore recommends a popular novel by Dan Brown:

Inferno-coverI’ve just finished reading Dan Brown’s latest book Inferno.  Brown is best known for his novel The Da Vinci Code (2003) and his works are guilty-pleasure reading for me. It isn’t high literature, but he’s a great storyteller and you can tell he’s spent a good deal of time in a library. In this latest novel, symbolist Robert Langdon unwittingly finds himself at the center of controversy (again) and in a globe-trotting race to save the world from a bio-terrorist attack.  A task that can only be accomplished by decoding Dante’s Inferno. Dante scholars should probably avoid the agony of reading this one, but it’s a quick and entertaining read for the rest of us willing to suspend reality for a few hours.

Librarian Kate Pitcher recommends a new fantasy novel, The Bone Season, by British writer Samantha Shannon:

bone seasonThe Bone Season is the first of a projected seven book series and is generating  a lot of buzz. Paige Mahoney is a “dreamwalker”, a type of clairvoyant in London, circa 2059.  Paige’s special abilities allow her to walk in and out of others’ minds and take information without their knowledge. Paige works for  a crime syndicate in the shadowy underbelly of London, but her life is dramatically changed overnight when she is kidnapped and taken to the lost city of Oxford.  Paige is kept imprisoned by a race of beings from another world, called the Rephaim, and is assigned a keeper, called Warden.  In order to find her escape, she realizes she must get close to Warden; an uneasy and altogether dangerous subterfuge. Gripping and entertaining, The Bone Season, marks an impressive debut  in what will be an original and thrilling series of science fiction.

For fans of contemporary fiction, Business Manager Ryann Fair recommends two titles this month:

light oceansI’m currently reading The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. If you’re looking for a gripping, emotional, and morally challenging read then I would give this first time novelist a try!

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah is hands down one of my all-time favorites! This novel is beautifully written and will draw you in. It’ll take you on one heck of an emotional roller coaster; making you laugh and (if your like me) cry as you discover the chilling and courageous story of Anya Whitman and her family.

What are we reading? Staff recommended reads for October

Are you looking for a good book to read?  Hundreds of thousands of books are published each year, so how does one choose? Read on for several Milne Library staff  book recommendations for the month of October.

In the mood for a spectacular YA fantasy?  Then read the following recommendation by Bill Jones, IDS Project Creative Technologist, for a truly amazing young adult novel:

The multiple award-winning YA novel, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, is a story filled with surreal illustrations and a captivating a-monster-callsstoryline that leaves the reader wondering what is in fact real and what is simply perceived to be.  The story is told through the eyes of a teenage boy named Conor, who describes his struggle in coming to terms with his mother’s cancer and the terrifying possibility of losing her.  Awakened from a nightmare, a monster comes to help Conor understand his future and admit truths that he holds deep inside.

Throughout the novel, the monster shares with Conor three stories to help him understand the truths of life and what lies ahead.  “The answer is that it does not matter what you think,” the monster said.  “Because your mind will contradict itself a hundred times each day. You wanted her to go at the same time you were desperate for me to save her. Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.”

Check out Patrick Ness’ amazing three-part Chaos Walking Trilogy:  The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008), The Ask and the Answer (2010), and Monsters of Men (2010).
Download the free prequel of the trilogy, A New World, today from Amazon Kindle!

Special Collections Librarian Liz Argentieri recommends an Irish writer and a trilogy which broke numerous social and literary barriers when first released in the 1960s.

Edna O’Brien’s Country Girls trilogy includes The Country Girls (1960), The Lonely Girl (1962), Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964).  All three novels were then reissued together with an  Epilogue in 1987.country girls

The impetus to pick up Edna O’Brien’s Country Girls trilogy came from chancing upon a panel discussion of it on the Diane Rehm show last spring.  Dealing with growing up female and Catholic in mid-20th century Ireland, it sounded intriguing: controversial, daring, and literary.  And since I liked what I had read of O’Brien’s short stories, I thought I’d tackle her trilogy. I’m glad I did.

The novels center on Caithleen (“Kate”) Brady, mainly, and her friend Bridget (“Baba”) Brennan, whom we first meet as two young teenage girls living in a small Irish town and straining against the confines of their lives – as teenagers often will.  They are an unlikely pair, and I never did grow to like Baba. Throughout, she bullied Kate and quite literally led her astray, beginning with her orchestration of getting them both expelled from convent school (an opportunity Kate, whose mother had recently died and whose drunk of a father drifted in and out of her life (usually violently) could ill-afford to squander).  But Kate was not easy to root for either.  Watching her drift through her own life, allowing friends, family, and lovers to largely decide her course, often made for frustrating reading, and if it weren’t for her sweetness and vulnerability and the unfortunate events in her life that she truly was unable to control, I might have had less sympathetic feeling for her.

lonely girlThe tone and point of view of the narration shifts between Kate and Baba.  When Baba’s telling the story, the language is more lively, the attitude more devil-may-care, but I’m sure I sensed an underlying pathos in there, especially in the last novel and Epilogue, when the two had more or less “made their beds.”  A current of loneliness flows through Kate’s rather spare narrative voice, especially when she’s talking or thinking about her girlhood home, a run-down farm on the edge of town.  The language she uses to describe that place and her life there – which was not without happiness and love – evokes the stereotypical image of a rainy, damp, bleak Ireland.  The feeling carries through her days in Dublin as a shop girl and Baba’s reckless tag-along, her romantic misadventures with older married men, and her ultimate fate.

Are you a fan of contemporary literary fiction?  Librarian Kate Pitcher recommends Life After Life, the latest novel by Kate Atkinson:

Ursula Todd is born on a cold and blustery night in 1910, and then dies.  She is then reborn, living through her traumatic birth, until a tragic death by drowning.  Ursula is then reborn again, lives a happy but chaotic childhood and dies in a firebombing during World War II.   She is then reborn again.life after life

Kate Atkinson (author of the wonderful Jackson Brodie mystery novels; Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News? and Started Early, Took My Dog) is an expert storyteller and a literary artist.  In her newest novel, she takes on an interesting device to tell the story of her heroine, Ursula Todd. What if your life didn’t really end at your death, rather, that your life is actually a series of lives as one person, and that you are destined to relive some of the same experiences over and over again, until you get it right?  This is the conceit that Atkinson employs to show Ursula’s development as a character and a person living through some of the worst calamities the human race has ever known – two World Wars and the almost entire destruction of people, namely those of the Jewish faith during the Holocaust.

Atkinson’s novel explores Ursula’s surreal sense of déjà vu and it works – the reader plays along and relives these lives; each one slightly different than the one prior, depending on how Ursula “learned” from that life.  What captures the reader’s imagination is the authors’ shaping of the narrative; how she uses the same plot and events, but almost every chapter reads like a different story.  It is a completely inventive and captivating story and engages the reader from page one, until the end, when we are left with the desire to relive those lives all over again.  Highly recommended, especially for fans of literary fiction and authors such as Margaret Atwood and Jennifer Egan.

2013.OctSR

 

Faculty Bookshelf: An interview with Steve Bein

Faculty.Bein2Steve Bein is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy, teaching classes on Asian philosophy.  Dr. Bein sat down with Kate Pitcher earlier this year to talk about books, reading and his writing life.  Dr. Bein’s second novel in the Fated Blades series (Year of the Demon) is newly published by Roc (an imprint of Penguin Publishing) this October.

What are your current research interests?

My recent projects have been in compassion, environmental ethics, and applied ethics.  My upcoming project is a book chapter on a Japanese philosopher called Watsuji Tetsurō.  There I’m writing about problems of how we self-identify in the face of climate change.

What is your favorite literary genre to read for pleasure?

At heart I’m a science fiction and fantasy guy.  They’ve got the most potential to be philosophically provocative.  But when I’m reading for pleasure, I also have an eye for reading the kind of stuff I’m currently writing.  So for Daughter of the Sword and Year of the Demon, I’ve been reading urban fantasy, historical fiction, and anything with strong female protagonists, because my books have all of those elements.

Do you read one book or multiple books at a time?

I read multiple books at a time.  (In my line of work, there’s not much choice!)

What book(s) are currently on your nightstand or e-reader?

I make it a point to read some philosophy and some fiction every day.  In philosophy I’m reading a lot of Watsuji Tetsurō right now.  In fiction, Kurt Vonnegut’s Sucker’s Portfolio and Hugh Howey’s Wool.

Tell us about a book that changed your life:

Introduction to Zen Buddhism by D.T. Suzuki is the first book I read on Zen, at fourteen.  It’s the book that put me on my career path. It taught me the importance of mental discipline, and that you didn’t necessarily need to replace one religion for another. The essential message is that your problems are problems because they are problematic for you.  Stress is not objective.  It’s not like weather; it’s not inevitable.  You can manage it.the-hobbit-tolkien

As for fiction, I read The Hobbit when I was a kid and I was hooked on fantasy after that.  Tolkien led me to Madeline L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, Robert E. Howard, all of that stuff.  From there I got into the sci fi side: Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, writers like that.  But I think The Hobbit is the snowflake that triggered the avalanche.

Name a book you just couldn’t finish & why:

I was asked to review a first novel, The Name of the Wind, which was advertised as Tolkienesque.  In my review I wanted to write, “it’s exactly as Tolkienesque as my work is Tolkienesque, which is to say not at all.”  No one is Tolkienesque—not until they redefine an entire genre and influence everyone in it.  My review of that book was, “Harry Potter without an interesting school, interesting adventures, or interesting friends, blathering on endlessly while taking superhuman efforts to remain a virgin.”

What were your favorite books as a child?

The Black Stallion, Choose Your Own Adventures, typical kid stuff. Thousands of pages of comic books. So many Conan novels. I was just at the right age when comic books made the shift from kid’s fare to adult fare.  Batman, Wolverine and those guys were my mythology, but then graphic novels came into being, so I could follow them into high school and beyond.

Do you have any favorite books related to your academic background in Japanese philosophy and history—books that non-experts would find accessible?

SophiesWorldZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is brilliant, and very accessible.  Robert Aitken is also very accessible; he’s one of the guys who brought Zen Buddhism to the United States.  The Mind of Clover stands out as a good choice.  On the Western side, Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World is a lovely little introduction to philosophy.

You also write fiction –how do you manage the difference in the writing process (or is there a difference?) between creative and scholarly writing?

They’re different but they inform each other. I think the demand for research in my academic life has trained me to do a lot of background reading for my fiction—which is a good thing, because historical fiction is heavily research intensive.  On the flipside, the fiction acts as a reward system for the academic scholarship; in fact, I’m sure I never could have finished my dissertation without it.  I was writing a novel at the time, and my system was to write 500 words a day for the dissertation before I was allowed to do any fiction writing.  A year later I had a finished dissertation and a novel manuscript in hand.

And then there’s the obvious: no matter what you write, I think the more time you spend writing, the better you get at it.  In my philosophy I want to be clear and lucid; in my fiction I want to write with panache.  Not a lot of philosophers focus on the latter, but in my opinion, writing clearly, lucidly, and with flair is no bad thing.

If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be?  What would you want to know?

Plato, and everything.

Faculty Bookshelf: Rachel Hall

HallSlider
Professor Rachel Hall in Holland.

Rachel Hall, Professor of English, Director of Writing, and award-winning author, is an avid reader of fiction, especially short stories. As a young woman, she became enamored of the short story, and continues to read them for inspiration and enlightenment. The stories of Alice Munro were especially important to her, in particular, Munro’s exploration of characters and their psychology.

Many of Professor Hall’s favorite short stories are by Alice Munro: “Dimensions” and “Free Radicals” from the collection Too Much Happiness; “My Mother’s Dream” from The Love of a Good Woman; “Friend of My Youth” and “Differently” from Friend of My Youth; “Labor Day Dinner” from The Moons of Jupiter; “Miles City, Montana” from The Progress of Love; “Carried Away” from Open Secrets.

Finding a Girl in America
Finding a Girl in America

She also enjoys Andre Dubus’ stories collected in Separate Flights and Finding a Girl in America, Robin Black’s If I Loved You I Would Tell You This, Jean Thompson’s Throw Like A Girl, The News From Spain by Joan Wickersham, and Siobahn Fallon’s You’ll Know When The Men Are Gone. And when she wants something new, literary magazines keep her well supplied.

Professor Hall says, “My philosophy on books and reading is that you can never be bored if you love books. I grew up in a family of readers and that is one of the best gifts my parents gave me.  I’m always reading something.  I read for many different reasons–for pleasure, or inspiration, or research or for models (how was this story built?) especially when I’m rereading.”

If I Loved You I Would Tell You This
If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This

Next on Professor Hall’s reading list is Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien’s collection of related short stories about Vietnam, and two books by Philip Caputo, Rumor of War, which is a personal narrative of a soldier in Vietnam, and 13 Seconds: A Look Back at the Kent State Shootings.

Not surprisingly when you look at her “to do” reading list, Professor Hall’s next writing project will be a novel set in the 1960s-70s, so she is set to enjoy researching for that book. Another future project is the Rochester Jewish Book Festival. She is on the committee that sponsors the festival and she will be traveling to New York City soon to recruit speakers for that event.

When asked what her favorite books were as a child, Professor Hall reveals a fascination with The Endless Steppe, by Esther Hautzig, spending hours imagining herself as the protagonist in frozen Siberia. Additionally, she enjoyed The Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and biographies of women such as Helen Keller.

Banner

Professor Hall shares her love of reading with her daughter; the two are members of a mother-daughter book club. While this gives her the opportunity to explore some new books with her daughter, it also means she has to read some books she’d rather not (Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson comes to mind).

The author Professor Hall would love to meet and talk to? Alice Munro, of course! If such a meeting could happen, Ms. Munro would undoubtedly enjoy the conversation with Rachel Hall immensely.

 

Faculty Bookshelf: Joanna Kirk

A continuing series of interviews with SUNY Geneseo faculty on their reading interests; today’s “Faculty Bookshelf” delves into the pursuits of Sociology and Political Science professor, Joanna Kirk.   

JKirkWhat is your philosophy on books and reading?

You are what you read. Books are food for the mind, psyche and soul, and you can’t live a full life without them. Like dishes, you won’t like them all, and you shouldn’t feel obliged to finish your plate. In fact, don’t feel obliged to start it, or perhaps nibble around the edges to please the person who has brought it your way. Revisit your favorite books: like your favorite cuisine, your favorite literature offers comfort and delight, and (books do this better than food) you always learn something new.

What is your favorite literary genre to read for pleasure?

Fiction, particularly novels exploring social, political, economic and psychological issues; and creative nonfiction, particularly historical and travel.  Oh, and when I want a laugh, sci-fi/fantasy comedy – wish I could find more writers of this genre up to par with Douglas Adams (“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) and Terry Pratchett (“Disc World”).  Any suggestions, anyone?

AdamsBooks

PratchettBooks

What books are on your nightstand now?

Currently reading: Written by Herself: Autobiographies of American Women WrittenByHerself

Books currently on my bedside table (next up, in order):

Tell us about a book that changed your life:

EdibleWomanToo many books have influenced me to mention here (some of which are listed above), but the first that comes to mind as a work with an immediate and profound effect on my thoughts and behavior was Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman, a gift from my elder brother, who I know perceived what I was going through.  The book helped me greatly with an eating disorder, and drew me further into issues of gender stereotyping, inequality and violence.

Name a book you just couldn’t finish: Lord of the rings

There are two “classics” I never finished:

What were your favorite books as a child?

Most* memorable childhood and young adult books (all of which helped me formulate goals in terms of personal qualities, professional skills, and lifetime accomplishments):

* It would be more accurate to say that they are the ones that have come to mind over the week since I was invited – thank you, Milne Library! – to write my book-bio.LittleHouseSeries

 

What are your current research interests?

Global development policy, particularly environmental and social sustainability and justice; and women’s rights, particularly violence against women.

Many of these books are available in the Milne Library collection and the others are available via IDS, simply click on the links or book covers above to get the call number or click “Get It” to request the book via IDS.

What are we reading? Staff recommended reads for April

2013.AprSR
Here’s what some of Milne’s Staff is reading!

Are you looking for a good book to read?  Hundreds of thousands of books are published each year, so how does one choose?  Milne Library staff  have selected a few choice ones to highlight for the month of April.

If you are a fan of more traditional fantasy fare, Reference & Instruction Librarian Sherry Rhodes recommends the The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix:

Last summer my teenaged daughter picked up a book called Sabriel from her favorite bookstore. I took a look at the back cover and found the description to be interesting, and decided to read it. I sure am glad I did!

I really enjoy fantasy, but it’s got to be well done. Too much of what is published as fantasy are ill-disguised reworkings of previously published books. Sabriel, and its two sequels, Lirael  and Abhorsen, are set in a completely unique world, with completely unique characters and plots.

sabrielSabriel is finishing school when her father, known as The Abhorsen and a gifted necromancer, goes missing. She journeys home, to the Old Kingdom, where magic is alive and well—and the dead are alive as well. With the help—and hindrance—of a cat who is not just a cat, and a long-imprisoned mage she rescues, Sabriel uses the skills her father has taught her to journey into Death to attempt to rescue him, and in the process battle the forces of evil necromancers determined to escape Death and return to the land of the living.

liraelLirael, on the other hand, has spent her entire life in the Old Kingdom. She is a daughter of the Clayr, women who have the ability to see the future. Fourteen when the book begins, Lirael is painfully aware that she is the only Clayr who has not received the Sight by her age. She also has no family, with the exception of the aunt who runs the Clayr settlement and who has little time for her. Feeling alienated from her surroundings, Lirael seeks isolation in the enormous library and is apprenticed as a Third Assistant Librarian. Over the months she works there, her curiosity enables her to learn how to battle hideous creatures lurking in the library’s depths, as well as how to construct a magical dog who becomes her loyal companion. Events reveal that Lirael’s destiny is not confined to the home of the Clayr, and actually is closely intertwined with the ruling family of the Old Kingdom. The end of the book leaves readers with few answers, setting up the plot for Abhorsen and the convergence of the main characters from the previous books and the resolution of the various plotlines.

abhorsen

I especially enjoyed the character development present in all three novels. Sabriel, Lirael, Sameth, and Nick are all believable teens, growing more mature and confident in themselves as the books progress and they age. The Disreputable Dog and Mogget the Cat exhibit typical characteristics of their respective species, but are far more than just a dog and a cat. Their often humorous and sometimes caustic interchanges reveal more about the Old Kingdom and Charter Magic—and conceal far more. Nick and the other ordinary humans live in a kingdom reminiscent of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy, flavored with a strong strain of Victorian/Edwardian steampunk. And Nix’s descriptions of the various levels of death, its denizens, and the dangers that are encountered there by the living are creepy and nerve-wracking.
If you’re looking for a really original fantasy series with appealing characters, Garth Nix’s The Abhorsen Trilogy is one to read.
Another favorite set of fantasy books is the comic fantasy series of  Thursday Next novels by Jasper Fforde, highly recommended by Electronic Resources & Digital Scholarship Joe Easterly:
fforde booksThe Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde are wonderful British novels which blend comic fantasy, detective fiction and literary wit. Set in a parallel universe where classic literature is revered above all, and criminal masterminds steal manuscripts and murder literary characters, literary detective Thursday Next is part of a specialized police force charged with protecting Britain’s literary heritage. As this fast-paced, endlessly imaginative series progresses, Thursday moves from one unusual situation to the next, such as running anger management classes for the cast of Wuthering Heights, to standing trial (set in Kafka’s book, of course) for changing the ending of Jane Eyre, and encountering fan-fiction versions of herself and Harry Potter. Start reading the series with the first book — The Eyre Affair. However, the third (The Well of Lost Plots) and the fifth (First Among Sequels) books are particularly good as well.
How about contemporary fiction?  Librarian Kate Pitcher recommends the recent publication of the novel, The Dinner, by Dutch writer Herman Koch and translated into English by Sam Garrett:
The Dinner is a contemporary book, set in present-day Amsterdam, although a specific day and time is never mentioned in the course of the novel’s events. The setting is dinner at an upscale restaurant in the heart of urban Amsterdam. Dinner is also the framework of the novel; chapters are nestled within sections of the book indicating which course is being served (“Aperitif” being the first, followed by “Appetizer” and so on ).
kochOur main characters are two couples, brothers and their wives. Narrated  by one brother, Paul, the other brother is Serge Lohman, an up-and-coming Dutch politician. The reader soon learns of the presumable reason the couples are meeting for their dinner – a horrible crime committed by the two brothers’ children. At the same time, we figure out Paul is an unreliable narrator; as the story moves on, not only do we learn more details of the sons’ horrible crime, but also the reason why Paul has lost his job as a history teacher. The reader is also continually struck by Paul’s anger and bitterness towards his brother, his sister-in-law Babette and their adopted son. As the novel progresses, the dinner itself feels surreal, the couples dancing around the decisions that must be made about their children and the impact it will have, not only on Serge’s career, but on all their lives.
A bestseller in his native Netherlands, The Dinner is an uncomfortable and disturbing story of how far people are willing to go to protect their family. It has surprises, and although the children’s’ crime is unforgivably brutal, it isn’t their crime that is the most horrible, but rather their parents’ reaction and response to it which moves this novel in so tragic a direction.  As The New York Times stated in its book review, the author  “…[he] has created a clever, dark confection, like some elegant dessert fashioned out of entrails. “The Dinner,” absorbing and highly readable, proves in the end strangely shallow, and this may be the most unsettling thing about it..”
Recommended and hard to put down, so save the reading for a day when you have a few hours to absorb yourself completely.

Have you read any good books lately? Are you willing to share a review? Let us know – submit your review to Kate Pitcher at [email protected] for a future post.

Award Winning Books @Milne

YALSABestofBest.SliderThe YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) Youth Media Awards were announced last week, and represent a fantastic group of books! Give your brain a break from articles and textbooks and pick up one of these great reads! The Alex Award honors a book written for adults, but that has wide appeal for teens and younger adult readers. Two of the winners this year are available here in the library:

Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
“The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests.” (see Milne Librarian Kate Pitcher’s recent review here…)

The Round House by Louis Erdrich
“One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe’s life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.”

YALSA Award for excellence in nonfiction honored the book Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal- the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. This book is available through IDS.  Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson was a honored book and is available here in Milne Library.

William C. Morris YA Debut Award is exciting as it honors an author who has published their first novel. This award always brings out new and noteworthy voices and are definitely worth a read.

This year the winner was:
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
“In her New York Times bestselling debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, ‘Some of the most interesting dragons I’ve read in fantasy.’”

The Michael L. Printz Award acknowledges books that “exemplify literary excellence”. This year’s winner, available through IDS was In Darkness by Nick Lake, a gripping novel about a young Haitian boy in the midst of the devastating earthquake. Last year featured John Corey Whaley’s Where Things Come Back that tells the story of an Arkansas teen navigating life in a small town during his brother’s disappearance and the reappearance of an extinct woodpecker.

Check out YALSA’s full list of awards and winners for more great recommendations!

~  Written by Allison Brown, Evening and Weekend Manager ([email protected])

Faculty Bookshelf: An interview with Professor Jani Lewis

Biology professor Dr. Jani Lewis

A continuing series of interviews with SUNY Geneseo faculty on their reading interests; today’s “Faculty Bookshelf” delves into the pursuits of Biology professor, Jani Lewis.

Biology professor Dr. Jani Lewis
Biology professor Dr. Jani Lewis

Professor Lewis’ reading interests could be described as both predictable and diverse including genre’s related to her biology research and those she has loved since childhood.

What are your current research Interests?

My current research interests involve vulvar cancer.  It appears that some cancers react differently to a commonly used drug for treating vulvar rashes.  Some cancers will cease growth while others may actually develop into more severe forms of the cancer.  Vulvar cancer is a rare cancer among women and so has not been studied extensively but is a very serious cancer afflicting mainly those over the age of 60 and often those who do not see a gynecologist regularly.  I work with an OB/GYN doctor at the University of Rochester, Dr. David Foster, to study this disease.

What is your favorite literary genre to read for pleasure?

I love science fiction and fiction in general but I also love reading science history.  Yes, I am a science geek but also love a good mystery.
Emperor of all Maladies book cover We'll Always have Paris book cover

What books are on your nightstand now?

I have several and mostly half finished.  My biggest problem is starting a book without finishing the one I am presently reading.  I have The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee and We’ll Always Have Paris: Stories by Ray Bradbury.

Tell us about a book that changed your life:

That would be hard to ascribe to just one book. I can say that several books greatly influenced my life. The ones that come to mind are A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle, “Egg and Ego: an almost true story of life in the biology lab” by J. M. W. Slack are among the ones that immediately come to mind.

A Short History of Nearly Everything book cover Frankenstein book cover A swiftly tilting planet book cover Egg and Ego book cover

Name a book you just couldn’t finish:

Oh this is the story of my life! I frequently pick up a book and then find that I just can’t get into it. The latest one that I tried reading over the summer was “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides. I know it was a work of great acclaim but I just couldn’t get into it.

Watership down cover imageEncyclopedia Brown book coverWhat were your favorite books as a child?

I loved all of Madeleine L’Engle’s books. I was a big reader of the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley and the Flame series also by Farley. I read the Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald Sobol and Watership Down as well as several of Richard Adams other books were among my favorites.

Do you have any favorite books related to your academic background in cell and molecular biology?

Experiments and observations of the gastric juice book title pageThere is a great book which I have gone back to a lot over the years called Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice, and the Physiology of Digestion by William Beaumont.  It’s a fascinating account of an American physiologist who studied the gastric juices of a soldier over many years.  The soldier  just so happened to have a gun inflicted fissure in his stomach which allowed the physician to remove the stomach contents when ever he wished and examine the digestion process.  The study took place in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and it is amazing to learn about medicine and research during that period from this first hand account.

Many of these books are available in the Milne Library collection and the others are available via IDS, simply click on the links or book covers above to get the call number or click “Get It” to request the book via IDS.