May 2012 Archives

Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman

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Many people have heard of Scientology but their knowledge is usually limited to its many celebrity followers. Janet Reitman gives the first non-biased, scholarly examination of a movement that is surrounded by secrecy. Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion does touch on some of its more bizarre beliefs, but the majority of the content is an examination of how the organization came into being and its evolution to its current form. It is a well-researched expose of Scientology, while also highlighting the stories of both true believers and skeptics.

The book begins with the "father" of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard and how this science fiction writer discovered something that would eventually become a movement with thousands of followers and generate millions of dollars annually. After Hubbard's death in 1986, the book follows the change in leadership to its current head, David Miscavige and the transformation he brought about to the movement. One of the most fascinating parts of the book is the examination of Miscavige's victory over the IRS with Scientology being given a tax exempt status after decades of legal battles. Spying, mysterious deaths, power struggles and daring escapes are some of what makes the book surprisingly engrossing. Reiman succeeds in pulling the curtain away from this global phenomenon that many people have an opinion about, but few know.

Anthony @ Atkinson


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Try Not To Breathe by Jennifer R. Hubbard

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Author Jennifer R. Hubbard does an outstanding job describing people who have anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and suicidal thoughts in the telling of Try Not To Breathe. High school student Ryan struggles to acclimate to life after having attempted suicide and staying in a mental hospital. It's not going well. His fellow students avoid him and his parents dissect his every word trying to determine his state of mind. Then one day he meets Nicki whose curiosity and persistent questions about the events leading up to Ryan's suicide attempt help her to understand both him and a tragic event that took place in her own family. As their friendship grows, Ryan slowly starts to build a new life that moves forward leaving his suicide attempt behind.

Valerie @ MPL Central



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Taco USA by Gustavo Arellano

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So why is it that Milwaukee, famous for its beer, brats and German heritage, has only about three or four German restaurants left, but there's a Mexican restaurant on practically every street corner throughout the city? Despite all of our differences, we Americans are united in our love of Mexican food, an intense passion perhaps only surpassed by our love of Italian pizza (which itself has a Mexican version).

Gustavo Arellano explores this culinary love affair in Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. In it, he investigates the beginnings of the Mexican food invasion, from the late 19th Century "Tamale Men" and "Chili Queens" all the way through to the Taco Bell and Chipotle chains of today. He shows how Mexican food staples combined with American ingenuity have led to all sorts of new tasty creations (Sonoran hot dog, anyone?) Far from a purist, Arellano celebrates these innovations and makes the case that Mexican flavors are an infinite palette for the American palate. Best read with some chips and guac at your side.

Brett @ Central


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Put Your Face in a Book!

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The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

The Future of Us is set in 1996, when less than half of high school students have ever been on the internet.

Josh gets a free trial AOL CD-ROM (does anyone remember those?) in the mail. He takes it over to his neighbor and longtime friend Emma to use on her new computer. Using dial-up they get connected and a website pops up called Facebook. It obviously doesn't exist yet, but they are somehow able to see what their lives are like fifteen years into the future. After seeing what their lives will be like, they try to change things in the present to alter their future selves.

Although this is a young adult book - there are a lot of references to culture from the 1990s that people who grew up during that time will remember. Rights for the movie were bought back before this book even came out and according to Internet Movie Database (IMDb), it should come out in 2013. Remembering the amount of time it took to get connected through dial-up, I wonder if that will be most of the movie?

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Friend Me!: 600 Years of Social Networking in America by Francesca Davis DiPiazza

People started social networking long before the digital age and Friend Me!: 600 Years of Social Networking in America takes us through the different ways and reasons people have figured out to communicate with one another.

I found page 7 really interesting, when "Greek Philosopher Plato warned against the spread of writing. He said it would stop people from exercising their memories. (How did he convey his warning? He wrote it down.)" This book gives an interesting perspective on different parts of our history and ties it in with how we communicate today. There are also good resources and suggestions for further reading at the back of the book.

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The History of the World According to Facebook by Wylie Overstreet

After there was a lot of uproar about the satirical article published online If Historical Events Had Facebook Statuses, author Wylie Overstreet decided to develop the concept into a book. It would appeal to all kinds of people - the history buff, the reluctant student (although beware of choice language used), or even people that know history but are not that familiar with Facebook - can learn about how it works and maybe have a few laughs as well.

One thing that made me laugh (and I thought about the AOL CD-ROMs again from The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler) was on page 137 - The U.S. Postal Service posted on America Online's Facebook page (AOL) - Look, I appreciate your business but I'm not sure another 18 million CDs is going to help. (posted on June 10, 1997) Hilarious.

Submitted by Christy @ Washington Park


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Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

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The sequel to Hilary Mantel's 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn at the hands of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell as Anne and her powerful family fight back while she is on trial for adultery and treason. Time magazine's Lev Grossman says,

"The rush of Bring Up the Bodies comes on even faster than that of Wolf Hall ­­-- there's none of what Holden Caulfield would have called the 'David Copperfield crap.' no childhood traumas and formative life lessons."

Mantel is at work on the third book in the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light. She says, "I want to combine aspects of both books: the fast turn of events that you have in Bring Up the Bodies, but also the interior voice of Cromwell, the spiritual aspect that you saw more of in Wolf Hall."

Jacki @ Central


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Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

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Carl Hiaasen's ventures into children's fiction are just as strong, and funny, as his popular adult novels. This time around, Wahoo Cray, and his father Mickey, own a zoo for animals that they rescued from various shelters around their home in southern Florida. They sometimes rent out their tame pets for appearances in various TV shows that call for alligators ETC.

Enter Derek Badger, the pompous star of a reality TV show named Expedition Survival. It seems Derek wants to wrestle alligators and snakes in the Florida Everglades for his show and wants to hire the Cray's to supply the tame animals he'll wrestle.

What ensues is a delightful romp through the Everglades that is educational, funny and sweet. Hiaasen's voice still promotes environmental conservation, but with a subtle touch of sentimentality that will appeal to both adults and children alike.

Recommended for ages 8 to 80!

Check here for availability.

Submitted by Dan @ Central



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The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

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James Baldwin was born in Harlem in 1924, the oldest of nine children. At age 14, he followed in the footsteps of his adoptive father and became a Pentecostal preacher. The three years he spent preaching helped him to find the voice and style he would later use as a writer, while his experience of growing up poor, black and gay in the inner city shaped the content of his work. Baldwin's first novel, the semi-autobiographical Go Tell It on the Mountain, is perhaps his most well-known. However, Baldwin continued to be a critical voice of the American civil rights movement in the decades to follow.

The Fire Next Time is a collection of two essays, "My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation" (originally published in Wisconsin's The Progressive) and "Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind." The first essay is written in letter style to Baldwin's nephew James, and the second details a visit he had with Elijah Muhammad is Chicago. Both essays are about race relations; the first focusing on their role in American history and the second about how they relate to and are manifested in religious practices in the United States. The essays of The Fire Next Time are lyrical and passionate, as well as insightful. Although it is a slim volume, it packs quite the punch, and is something that gives its readers plenty to think about. This is a must read for anyone interested in the American Civil Rights Movement or in modern-day anti-racist activism.

Jennifer P. @ Washington Park Library


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Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen

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Collins and Hansen offer analysis gathered from years of research of companies that have consistently beat their competition. The authors share engaging stories and reveal surprising results that challenge the conventional leadership wisdom about business success. For example, innovation and quick action does not guarantee business success, nor does luck or a well-timed bold move. Their empirical evidence and scholarly approach makes for convincing evidence that success can be achieved when basic principles are applied. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Brian @ Washington Park


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In One Person by John Irving

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Billy is in anguish, he has a crush on an androgynous librarian, Miss Frost, and a crush on a fine-looking boy at school. He's worried that this isn't normal. Thankfully, Mrs. Hadley, a trusted adult, assures him that "This isn't criminal activity!" In One Person is a story of unfulfilled love--tormented, funny, and affecting--and an impassioned embrace of our sexual differences. Billy, the bisexual narrator and main character, tells the tragicomic story (lasting more than half a century) of his life as a "sexual suspect," a phrase first used by John Irving in 1978 in his landmark novel of "terminal cases," The World According to Garp.

Submitted by Jacki @ Central


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My Friend Dahmer by Derf

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The author of My Friend Dahmer, a chilling graphic novel, recollects a teenage Jeffrey Dahmer in a series of vignettes pulled from memories and extensive research. Derf and his friends made up the "Dahmer Fan Club," treating the future serial killer as an oddball mascot. The author paints a somewhat sympathetic portrait of his former friend, but makes it clear that his sympathy ends with Dahmer's first murder.

Although much has been written about Dahmer, the graphic novel format makes this particular book unique. Derf's minimalistic drawings create a nightmarish atmosphere, and enhance the subject matter rather than trivializing it. Be sure not to skip the 22 pages of plain text the author includes towards the end of the volume. It summarizes the author's research and provides further insight and details to the stories presented earlier in the book. My Friend Dahmer is a quick and fascinating read for fans of true crime stories, and/or graphic novel enthusiasts.

Submitted by Jennifer P. @ Washington Park


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"Retreat? Hell, we just got here." Captain Lloyd W. Williams of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines in response to French troops urging a retreat from Belleau Wood 1918.

The author of the acclaimed "Patton: A Biography" gives an inspired account of the horror and heroism experienced by U.S. Marines during World War 1 as they pushed a fortified German force from "an idyllic patch of forest" outside of Paris.
The ensuing month long battle fought from June 1st-26th, 1918 earned the Marines the nickname "Devil Dogs" from the German troops who thought them equal to their own "stormtroopers."

"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold." 1st Lt. Clifton B. Cates, USMC in Belleau Wood, 19 July 1918

Belleau Wood was captured and recaptured by the Marines 6 times till they finally kicked the German Army out for good. The story of the ferocious battle is told through first hand accounts, letters, battle histories and Marine Corps records to paint a blood-soaked painting of combat during WW1 that reads like a story and not a history book.

"The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle."
Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing, U.S. Army
Commander of American Forces in World War I

I think I should note that the Marines were from the 4th Marine Brigade, which included the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments, and were assigned to the 2nd Division of the U.S. Army during the battle, so, naturally, Army personnel also participated. The 3rd Army Division was also present.

Recommended for history buffs of all ages and eras.


Check catalog availability HERE.

Submitted by Dan @Central



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Num8ers by Rachel Ward

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Jem has seen numbers floating above people's heads for as long as she can remember. The numbers mean something. Something grim. They're dates of the person's death. Sometimes they're a few days in the future and others are thirty or forty years away. Jem has always kept these dates to herself never telling anyone that the numbers exist. Then one day as she and her new friend Spider are walking in London, Jem sees multiple people with the same exact numbers. All dates of that very day. In a panic she immediately turns and starts running away calling for her friend to follow when suddenly the London Eye explodes behind them. Even among the chaos people notice the two sprinting away and in no time at all the two friends become prime suspects in the horrific terrorist attack. Check the catalogue here to find a copy of Num8ers for you to check out today.

Submitted by Valerie @ MPL Central



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The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeen

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Ever wondered whether a money-free lifestyle could be possible? Daniel Suelo has pretty much been doing it since 2000. He only takes what people have disposed of or have freely given to him. Mark Sundeen, the author of The Man Who Quit Money, interweaves the story of this man's journey with some interesting questions about our own way of life. Some may consider this mooching or freeloading, but he definitely has a unique outlook on life.

Submitted by Christy @ Washington Park


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The political firestorm that hit Madison in February 2011 is the topic of the timely and passionate book, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street. Nichols does an excellent job balancing a discussion of the historical and contemporary implications of Governor Scott Walker's actions and the historic response it engendered. Wisconsin demonstrated to the world what political action means; Nichols celebrates the heart, passion and wisdom of the protests and protestors.

Submitted by Jeff @ Washington Park


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Rag and Bone.jpgA withered tongue. Teeth. A piece of foreskin. What do these things have in common (aside from a certain "gross" factor)? They are just a few of the relics, or remains of the holy, author Peter Manseau investigates in this unique travelogue. Rag and Bone explores the myths and stories behind some of the world's most sacred remains, taking readers from a small decaying church in Goa, India to the far reaches of Kashmir. The journey starts with Manseau's first encounter with relics as a boy. This experience sparks an interest and leads to a journey around the world. The questions Manseau asks aren't so much are these objects authentic or holy, but how they came to be venerated and how their conferred sacredness helps to explain the relationship between the physical and spiritual realms. A fascinating read.

Submitted by Kristina @ MPL Central



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Calico Joe by John Grisham

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Joe Castle could very well have been the next Chicago Cubs legend. He might have been right up there with names like Ernie Banks, Gabby Hartnett, and Hack Wilson. Unfortunately, he has two things going against him: his career was ended prematurely by one nasty pitch, and also, he never actually existed. He is an invention of John Grisham in his latest novel, Calico Joe. Inserted among very real players of the early 1970s like Ron Santo and Don Kessinger, Joe Castle is the putative savior of the ever-faltering Cubs, going on an unprecedented tear after bring called up from the minor leagues midway through the 1973 season. He hits three home runs in his first three Major League at-bats and is an unstoppable force throughout July and August, pushing the Cubs into a pennant race with the New York Mets. His instant success rubs struggling Mets pitcher Warren Tracey (also a Grisham invention) the wrong way, and the confrontation between these two ballplayers is at the center of this novel. Told from the perspective of Tracey's now-adult son, Grisham blends baseball history with themes of family, regret and forgiveness in this brief but satisfying book.

Submitted by Brett @ Central


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Louise Brooks - The Girl in the Black Helmet

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Ev'ry little breeze seems to whisper Louise. From Louise, a 1929 song

Milwaukee Film recently showed the cult classic Pandora's Box starring the timeless Louise Brooks with live musical accompaniment at the Oriental Theatre. She gave one of the most unforgettable performances in film history as Lulu, who is pimped by her "daddy," kept by a newspaper publisher, blackmailed by a con artist and meets Jack the Ripper. The Roaring 20s flapper would be at home in today's movies.

Barry Paris' Louise Brooks chronicles her life from a Kansas childhood to dancer in Broadway revue shows to emerging stardom as a Paramount actor, but the "Girl in the Black Helmet" was too free-spirited for the Hollywood studio system and self-destructive. When a friend asked why her movie career prematurely ended, she bluntly replied, "I like to...drink too much."

After decades in obscurity, Pandora's Box and its star reemerged to become cult favorites, which led to a second career for the well-read Brooks. She wrote a series of sardonic and perceptive essays on her movies, W. C. Fields, Humphrey Bogart and more for film journals that were eventually compiled in the well-received Lulu in Hollywood.

Louise Brooks: Lulu Forever is a coffee table book loaded with striking photos of Brooks taken by photographers ranging from the renowned Edward Steichen to Paramount studio photographer Eugene Robert Richee, who captured her best. The camera adored her. More people have seen photos of her than her movies. She was the inspiration for the comic strip Dixie Dugan and Cyd Charisse's vamp in Singin' in the Rain.

Submitted by Van Lingle Mungo


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Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? by Touré

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Post-Blackness, like post-modernism, is about boundless possibilities. According to Touré and the multitude of Black thinkers in Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to Be Black Now, identity and authenticity are no longer at odds in the current age of individualized notions of Blackness. Touré shares a variety of contemporary anecdotes and examples of Post-Blackness as he critiques the commentary of contemporary culture's Black movers and shakers.

Submitted by Brian @ Washington Park


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Girl Reading by Katie Ward

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Girl Reading uses seven different pieces of artwork (from a 14th century altar piece all the way to a modern Flickr photograph), to give a voice and a story to each "reading girl." At first glance, this novel appears to be a series of short stories. However, several elements weave throughout each tale, tying them all together into one cohesive novel. Katie Ward's debut novel is a unique and thought-provoking read.

Submitted by Jennifer P @ Washington Park


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Frommer's 500 Places to See Before They Disappear

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Frommer's has put together a second edition of 500 Places to See Before They Disappear with some new additions and/or new information on previously listed places. Instead of a classic Frommer's travel guide listing tourist areas of interest, hotels, food places and some history; this guide focuses on endangered destinations. It is packed with 500 disappearing spots worldwide. It is organized not by location but by categories that list the endangered aspect, geography or cultural aspect. Some chapter headings are islands, holy places, ancient ruins and disposable culture. The majority of the entries are just under one page and may include black and white photos. At the end of each entry you will find a listing of resources such as tourist centers or hotels. These listings are not full reviews; they mainly include contact information. The bulk of the information dispensed in this book is about the threatened area; history, statistics and of course, areas to visit. In reading the books, you will discover that some of these sites are not as much disappearing from the world as being changed by environmental or human involvement.

You may read about places not generally known to visitors such as Coiba Island in Panama. With its 147 species of birds and 36 species of mammals, it is considered an exotic environment. However, its existence is threatened by logging, tourism and illegal fishing. The Mabi Forest also has a page in this book. It is a very unique Australian rainforest endangered because of invasive species and recurring cyclones in the area. Maybe you are interested in more urban areas such as Detroit and the decline of America's Motor City or the loss of many stores to the internet and malls in High Street in London.

Besides an alphabetic index, there is a resource index and a geographic index. Wisconsin does have several entries including Taliesin and Leon's Custard Stand. 500 Places to See Before They Disappear is a wonderful resource book for a traveller looking for something a little different and eco-friendly. Additionally, the book is instructive about why certain areas do need additional protection and what we can do to help. It is also a good guide for armchair travellers who might want to read up on places that may no longer be there when or if they are ready to travel the world.

Submitted by Lori @ Central Library


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The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau

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When his family is killed during an errant U.S. military operation in the Middle East, 15-year-old Jonas is sent to live with a foster family in America. His story is told in short prose bursts consisting of Jonas's memories and current struggles, excerpts from the U.S. soldier's journal that Jonas read, and a mother's journey to closure of a son declared missing in action. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Christy @ Washington Park


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The 4% Universe by Richard Panek

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There is a paucity of well written, well researched books on science concepts for popular readership. The 4% Universe is one such book. Reaching back to Copernican days of astronomy, Panek chronicles the seeming collision course of astronomy, an observational science, and physics, an experimental science. It was this collision course which brought us the concepts of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, which are now, for all intents and purposes, integral to the cosmological 'Standard Model' of reality. The author explores these concepts in ways that the average reader can understand, as well as giving the histories of the individuals and departments involved in the search for why the mass of matter in the universe is far greater than what we can observe instrumentally. The 4% Universe is a quick read and puts a human face on two sciences that we sometimes consider lofty and beyond our ken. I definitely recommend this book.

Submitted by Peter @ Washington Park


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