January 2009 Archives

Suburban World: The Norling Photos


Suburban World: The Norling Photos by Brad Zellar (2008)

This past summer, I somewhat randomly happened upon a great photography exhibit at The Minnesota History Center featuring the work of Minnesota native Irwin Norling. For forty hours a week, Norling was employed as an engineer at Honeywell. The rest of his waking hours he was an "amateur" photographer. His subject matter was the town he lived in, Bloomington, and ran the gamut from accident scenes to civic events to local citizens. His style was to capture things "exactly as they are" without any artistic flourishes.

In 2002, while exploring the vaults of the Bloomington Historical Society, journalist Brad Zellar uncovered over 10,000 of Norling's photos. This book culls the best of the bunch and the overall result is a thorough and unsentimental documentation of Bloomington's existence as a typical Midwestern small town, eventually giving way to the surburban sprawl of the Twin Cities. Highly recommended. Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by Tom @ MPL Central

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout


Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I really enjoyed this book. Olive, who lives in a small town in Maine, is a “character” of a certain age. She appears in each of 13 touching short stories laced with humor and pathos. Relationships with her family, friends and former students are imperfect, but they are always revealing and interesting. Themes of depression, love, loss and aging are all represented, and I longed for more as I finished reading the final story. This title is included in the Library Journal’s Best Books of 2008.

Check catalog for availability.

- Submitted by Kristin @ Central

Life With My Sister Madonna by Christopher Ciccone

I didn't grow up a fan of Madonna. Aware of her, yes, few people weren’t, but my pop star devotion was directed elsewhere. Not having obsessively read about her, actually not really knowing anything about her and then reading this book probably makes my take on it different than that of a devoted fan.

Out of seven siblings, Christopher, younger by three years seems to have had the closest relationship with her. He talks about the various roles--backup dancer, personal assistant, dresser, interior designer, art and tour director, and general supporter--he has had in her life.

She hurts him in many ways; stiffs him for money, invites him to live with her or work for her and then changes her mind, and allows the friends of her latest husband to take pot shots at him. The portrait of Madonna that emerges is not flattering.

But to me, more unflattering is the portrait that Christopher paints of himself. That of a desperate hanger oner. He always says he has no choice but to acquiesce to her every whim, but that’s not true. Not if he’s willing to give up the access to celebrity and ease that comes with the roles she offers him.

Christopher gives a full portrayal of the best and worst of Madonna, but his account is bitter, making it hard to know what is really true. At her worst, she is publicity crazy . . . and at her best she is a shrewd business woman.

Christopher has much to say about her husbands; Sean Penn was angry and uncontrolled, and that Guy Ritchie is homophobic and unpleasant. Warren Beatty emerges as the best of her beaus, giving more evidence of maturity and having some greater sense of the absurdity of Madonna's fame and how she chose to take it on.

All in all, I enjoyed seeing a world typically hidden, as well as the various bits of celebrity dish shared, and surprisingly, it is quite well written. A sign that the attention to detail that has made Madonna a success is perhaps a trait held by more than just one member of the Ciccone family. Check catalog for availability.

The Longest Trip Home by John Grogan


You may not recognize the name John Grogan, but he’s the author of Marley and Me. His new book is not Marley and Me, although it is humorous and well written. If you grew up Catholic this will certainly be a nostalgic ‘trip.’ Despite growing up in a strongly religious household, Grogan managed to pull off a number of pranks and was involved in several incidents that his parents would not have approved of.

He also tells of his romantic "firsts" and talks about forging a family lifestyle with his wife Jenny and their three children. The book focuses on the differences between his parents and himself. It shows the journey he took from following his family's beliefs and traditions to creating his own. It showcases his compassion and love for his parents despite their struggle with his faith. Check catalog for availability.


Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon - and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller

As a big fan of the music of Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon, I was really looking forward to reading this book, and I wasn’t disappointed. The lives, loves and dreams of all three iconic singer-songwriters are detailed in this well-researched chronicle by an award-winning magazine journalist and New York Times bestselling author. Emotions and angst from life events and love lost provide material for their heart-felt songs. The talented and ground-breaking artists’ lives are intertwined as their careers take off during the early days of the women’s movement. This captivating page-turner which is listed on Library Journal’s Best Books of 2008 serves as a rock soundtrack of the 60s and 70s and a social history of a wild and momentous era. Library Journal article.

Check catalog for availability.

- Submitted by Kristin @ Central


The bloody battle for Iwo Jima during WWII will always be remembered for the iconic photo of six Marines raising the flag atop Mt. Suribachi. The Pulitzer Prize winning photo captures one moment in a battle that lasted over a month and would eventually claim over 23,000 casualties with over 6,000 Marines and Sailors killed in action. All of this carnage came on an island measuring 8 square miles! The men who raised the flag in the famous photo were members of Combat Team 28 of the 5th Marine Division. The history of Combat Team 28 on Iwo Jima is told through official records, and more interestingly, through the personal recollections of Major General Fred Haynes, who was a captain during the battle. His observations, along with others from Marines who were there, tell the real story here. They tell a tale of determination, brotherhood and sacrifice.

Check catalog for availability.

- Submitted by Dan @ Central

Parrots Parrots Everywhere

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The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill : A Love Story ... With Wings by Mark Bittner (2004)

After reading about Mark Bittner in the news and on the internet, I couldn't wait for his book and film to be released. I was excited to learn about a population of wild parrots in San Francisco and interested in learning more. In both the book and the film you learn about Mark, the entire flock, and the individual parrots within the flock. If you're a bird lover this is a wonderful heartwarming story that lives on in the flock that still thrives today in California. Check catalog for availability.


The Parrot Who Owns Me : The Story Of A Relationship by Joanna Burger (2001)

Burger writes a thoroughly entertaining book about the highs and lows of adopting an adult parrot. In perfect detail, she describes her parrot Tiko's behavior and personality. Tiko's transition into a new home was terribly difficult for both himself and his new owners. His new life begins withdrawn, depressed, and sometimes aggressive. With time he becomes happy, content and loving. Although the story was sometimes sad, I enjoyed reading about Tiko's intelligence and transition, as well as Burger's patience and diligence to make the best life possible for Tiko. Check catalog for availability.


Elsewhere In The Land Of Parrots by Jim Paul (2003)

I can't help picking up a book that has a parrot on the cover. I am always curious to see if the author actually knows anything about parrots and how they fit them into the story. This story is well written in that aspect and the characters and storyline are just as interesting as the parrots. It all begins a bit slow, but picks up after the characters and plot have been developed. Don't be fooled by the cover (unless you simply love parrots), Paul writes an interesting book about the relationship of a couple while they are on a South American adventure. Check catalog for availability.


The Final Solution : A Story Of Detection by Michael Chabon (2004)

In 1944 a mute German boy and his parrot wander through the English countryside into the life of a retired detective. The unusual pair bring with them a dangerous mystery with a remarkable resolution. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

Smoked: A Thriller by Patrick Quinlan


This raging novel should come equipped with an airbag to cushion the blunt-force explosion of words in this action jammed tale of hit men, betrayal and absurd love.

Lola was enjoying a peaceful, quiet life practicing martial arts and working as a school aide with her librarian roommate Pamela and her older boyfriend Smoke, until some “businessmen” identified Smoke as a former bomb-maker for the mob! It seems Smoke disappeared a few years back with a couple of million dollars in mob money that they wanted returned. They also wanted Smoke dead.

Unable to locate Smoke after an unsuccessful kidnapping attempt, some hit men decide to set a trap for Smoke by holding Lola and Pamela as bait. What ensues is a detonation of violence and retribution that leads to love and forgiveness. Wearing a bullet-proof vest is recommended while reading this bombastic story!

Check catalog availability

Submitted by Dan @ Central

What It Is by Lynda Barry


Many of the best people you know emerged from the dysfunctional loam of childhood’s primordial slime and made the world an ashram, their work a dharma. Lynda Barry is beloved because she mines unresolved emotional energies clamoring like small children in order to chronicle childhood’s freckled cruelties, bugs, and monsters---always with psychological depth and humanity.

In What It Is, Barry constructs a compelling story that explains how easy it is for the people and systems around us to obstruct-- or even destroy-- our creativity.
The Footville, Wisconsin native posits the provocative question in which a cheeky genie offers to release you from your own container of pork and beans: “If a genie offered to free you from a dull, canned life, what would you say?”

Part philosophical discussion on image making and why we do it, part jumper cable to revive your creative process, this book is the essence of the writing course Barry gives around the country. It’s all about memory, creativity, a magic cephalopod, and Lynda Barry’s life-- all pasted on a yellow legal pad. Her collages are elaborate, tender, beautiful semiotic studies.

First published in the 80’s by her pal Matt Groening (Barry calls him “Funklord of USA”), she is also infamous for her disastrous romantic relationship with public radio personality Ira Glass. She is definitely the nervous astral goober driving the bus in What It Is: “I’m worried about…the war, things I said 15 years ago, my double chin, unanswered mail, what an ass I am, and I’ve had ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ playing in my head for days.” Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jane H. @ King Library


I find a quirky charm in these early poems by acclaimed drunkard and poet Charles Bukowski. Written between bottles of beer and bouts with prostitutes, these poems are as exquisite as they are brutal; as introspective as bold; as soft as uncompromising. They tell of loneliness, heartbreak, drunkenness and barbarity. They also speak of kindness, acceptance and love, but most of all, they speak of humanity and the pressures that ebb into and flow out of each of us in a way only a master poet and astute observer of the human condition is capable of creating.

Check catalog availability

Submitted by Dan @ Central




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This page is an archive of entries from January 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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