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Hugh

Antarctica: an intimate portrait of a mysterious continent by Gabrielle Walker (2013)

Although some reviewers see Walker as too bubbly and unaware of the basic scientific understanding her readers are likely to have, I very much enjoyed reading this book. The author takes us on a tour of Antarctica describing the various scientific projects from penguin behavior to ice core sampling and meteor hunting. She allows us to visit both the east and west lobes of the continent with some details of where the ice sheets are retreating and how it might affect the rest of the world.

Also, there are brief episodes of the historical heroes given as the narrative moves around the continent as well as interesting tidbits of persons spending successive winters at the South Pole and the first natural born citizen of Antarctica. Try reading Antarctica in the dead of winter to set an appropriate backdrop for the narrative.
Joe

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (2013)

Daniel James Brown captures the essence not only of this story but also of the sport of crew—the physical strength of the rowers, the strategy of the coxswain, the design of the boat. The author’s eye for detail is reminiscent of the writing of Laura Hillenbrand.
The Boys in the Boat focuses on the life of Joe Rantz, who, like his teammates, grows up during the Depression and struggles just to survive. These eight young, powerful rowers guided by a brilliant coxswain rose from humble beginning to win the gold at the 1936 Olympics. You will be cheering them on all the way to the finish.
Hugh

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan (2013)

For many years, authors have written about Jesus of Nazareth using the Christian Bible, historical works and their imagination. Recognized history outside of the Bible has little to say about Jesus (he was a Jew who was crucified under Roman authority) but much to say about his effect on western culture and civilization. Now in Zealot, Reza Aslan writes a description of Palestine at the time of Jesus to show how the man from the Gospels may have fit into that tumultuous time when our calendar began.

Aslan, a well-educated scholar of Christianity and other religions, writes to define Jesus as a special man much like other Zealots of his time but one whose miracles are not questioned through later centuries of controversy about his birth, divinity, and resurrection. Aslan emphasizes the confrontational aspects of encounters and parables in the Gospels to paint Jesus as a revolutionary against the Roman and Jewish temple authorities.

After the destruction of Jerusalem, Aslan believes Christian writers moderated the zealous teaching of Jesus from a revolutionary stance to one of a Kingdom beyond this world with mercy, justice and peace as its goals. Zealotry, that is excessive zeal and fanaticism, was seen to endanger the early Christian community by inviting violent repression from Roman authority. Aslan doesn’t give much value to the 2000 years of witnesses beginning with the Apostle Paul viewing Jesus as the Son of God. Christians may not find this work a best choice for Christmas reading.

 
Mary P.

Making Masterpiece: 25 years behind the scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS by Rebecca Eaton (2013)

I have watched Masterpiece since it first was broadcast on TV. Masterpiece Theatre and its sister program Mystery! were outstanding productions of British classics. Rebecca Eaton has been its executive producer for the past 28 years. She shares what that’s like, plus a lot of her own personal story. There are interesting anecdotes about many famous actors, including Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and Kenneth Branagh.

But what I found fascinating is the way programs are created, sponsored, sold and finally aired. Eaton goes into detail about having to change with the times and how social networking has affected her job. If you have loved watching Masterpiece, you will find this “behind-the-scenes” story interesting.

Find an audio or print version of Making Masterpiece.
Jez

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh (2013)

New author Allie Brosh is endlessly hilarious in her new graphic novel, Hyperbole and a Half. The book features many classics from her popular blog of the same title, but these are balanced by brand new content, available only in this new collection.

With her mix of prose commentary and MS Paint-like comics, Brosh tackles many topics and events in her life, ranging from raising her two dogs, her childhood, a goose attack, to her battle with depression. Brosh does an excellent job of tackling tough issues with humor, and will have the reader laughing through even her darkest moments.
Mary

The Journal of Best Practices: a memoir of marriage, Asperger syndrome, and one man's quest to be a better husband by David Finch (2012)

Chicagoan David Finch holds nothing back in describing his life with Asperger’s and its impact on his marriage and family life. With incredible determination and support from his wife, Finch immerses himself in understanding Asperger syndrome. Using his journal of best practices, Finch develops skills and routines that restore the love and friendship that are at the heart of his marriage. The Journal of Best Practices, a touchingly funny memoir, provides hope for anyone struggling to improve a relationship.
Jez

Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres (2011)

Seriously…I’m Kidding is a great memoir covering topics that range from DeGeneres’s life as a talk show host, her life at home, and anything else that pops into her head. No topic is too mundane for Ellen DeGeneres, no doubt due to her humorous outlook on all aspects of life. The audiobook in particular is a great listen, as DeGeneres draws attention to and pokes fun at the format, using audiobooks to their full advantage in a way no other author does.

 
IPPL Staff

Spotlight: American Musicals

Do you love the American musical? If so, then don’t miss the series of books on Broadway musicals by Ethan Mordden. The first book of the series, Make Believe: The Broadway Musical in the 1920s (1997) tells about all the composers, directors, and stars of the era. The series continues with a book for every decade up through the 1970s and ending with The Happiest Corpse I’ve Ever Seen: The Last 25 Years of the Broadway Musical (2004).

Here’s the books in between:
Joe

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (2000)

Me Talk Pretty One Day is a series of funny essays by David Sedaris. In the first half of the book, he recounts humorous anecdotes about his life in the United States, but my favorite is an essay about his time living in France and trying to learn French with transplants from around the world. The class eagerly attempts, in very broken French, to try to describe to a Muslim woman what Easter is. It is one of the funniest things I have ever read.
IPPL Staff

I’m a Good Dog: Pit Bulls, America's Most Beautiful (and misunderstood) Pet by Kevin Foster (2012)

The book is a collection of stories about pit bulls and how they are misunderstood. I loved Kevin Foster’s I’m a Good Dog because it gave so many examples of how, if given the right/correct way to rehabilitate any dog, they can give back to their owner’s community.
IPPL Staff

The Four Agreements: a practical guide to personal freedom by Miguel Ruiz (1997)

A quick read from the self-help section with four very simple guidelines for life. Use it to simplify your life and foster a strong sense of well-being. Check out The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz today.
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IPPL Staff

Seriously, I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres (2011)

The audio version of Seriously, I’m kidding is hilarious due to the fact that it is narrated by Ellen DeGeneres.  Her comedic timing coupled with her funny stories make this audiobook of her reflections on life “laugh out loud.”
Jennifer

The Girls of Atomic City: the untold story of the women who helped win World War II by Denise Kiernan (2013)

Shrouded in secrecy, Oak Ridge didn't officially exist despite its population of over 70,000 residents at its peak in 1945. Denise Kiernan unveils the amazing true story of the government’s efforts to harvest fuel for the atomic bomb by building industrial factories – and an entire town – from scratch in rural Tennessee. As a history major with an avid interest in World War II, I had never heard of this – so I’m guessing many others are unaware of this aspect of the Manhattan Project.
The Girls of Atomic City traces the lives of several women working in Oak Ridge for the war effort – which is about all they knew: that their job would help end the war, but no more. Workers were given just enough information to properly complete their jobs. Part military base (guards patrolled entrances), part small town America, Oak Ridge housed military and medical personnel, scientists, and skilled and unskilled laborers from all walks of life from across the United States.

Read this book – it provides a fascinating glimpse into a little known part of American history and effortlessly weaves history, science, biography, and ethics through vignettes about several strong women.
Hugh

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson (2011)

Berlin in 1933 was no place for a peaceful university professor with a fun loving son, and a recently separated daughter looking for romance and adventure. Professor Dodd was not Roosevelt’s first choice for ambassador to Germany, but he accepted the appointment thinking it would be a good career move and give him time to complete his historical writing on the American Civil War.

The reader is greeted with an outrage by brown shirt paramilitary against an American doctor even before the Professor and his family arrive in Berlin. This outrage and others to come are initially regarded by the Ambassador and his daughter as isolated incidents that occur as Germany seeks to find its place among the powerful nations of the world. It takes some time for the Ambassador and his family to realize the dark nature of this German government.

Then in 1934, it became clear to the Dodds that the Nazis could not be trusted and would resort to clandestine and harsh measures to attain their goals. Dodd, through his critical communications, loses favor with both the U.S. State Department and his German hosts so that he and his family are required to leave Germany at the end of 1934. The reader can follow the narrative through this two year period with interest and gain some understanding of how the world did not recognize the great danger that was to come.

Find a copy of In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson today.
 
IPPL Staff

Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking by Susan Cain (2012)

This book might be interesting for those who are interested in psychology issues. Quiet discusses introverts and extroverts, plus how introverts can be “pretend” extroverts.  Susan Cain includes a lot of interesting stories including how extroverts crashed the financial market.

We think there’s a lot in this book to discuss. That’s why the GenLit Book Group for 20-30somethings will be talking about the book at their meeting on August 19, 2013 at 6:30pm at Taste of India.
 
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