Recently in Year End Lists Category

It's been a busy year but our ever vigilant staff have still managed to do some reading, viewing and listening. Here are their favorite things from 2013. Once again, it's an interesting and eclectic list and long one. You might want to settle in.

Kate's List


Click for availability and more information Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan

Click for availability and more information The Expats, by Chris Pavone

Click for availability and more information Night Film, by Marisha Pessl

Click for availability and more information The Other Typist, by Suzanne Rindell



Click for availability and more information Balaboosta: bold Mediterranean recipes to feed the people you love , by Einat Admony with Joel Chasnoff and Dhale Pomes

Click for availability and more information Keepers: two home cooks share their tried-and-true weeknight recipes and the secrets to happiness in the kitchen , by Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campion

Click for availability and more information Grand Forks: A history of American dining in 128 reviews , by Marilyn Hagerty

Barbara's Pick


Click for availability and more information Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers
I was already a Dave Eggers fan after reading What is the What and Zeitoun, the first a fictional account of the lost boys of Sudan and the second a non-fiction account of one man's struggle against injustice following Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans. Hologram for the King is powerful existential fiction that reminded me most of Waiting for Godot. It's a moving account of the helpless efforts of a US businessman who waits every day in an appointed tent to sell his product to a growing Saudi Arabian city. The deal would help him stave off personal bankruptcy and pay for his daughters tuition during the Great Recession. 

Karen's List

Most of the books I've read and would recommend for 2013 have already ended up on other "Best of..." lists. They include:

Click for availability and more information Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

Click for availability and more information The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Click for availability and more information The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri

Click for availability and more information Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish , by David Rakoff

A couple of others that may not have been on such lists are:

Click for availability and more information Blue Plate Special: an autobiography of my appetites, by Kate Christensen
The author of a number of books of fiction takes an honest look at her own life and appetites.

Click for availability and more information Coming Clean, by Kimberly Rae Miller
The story of surviving a childhood with two extreme hoarders as her parents. 

Robin's List

Click for availability and more information The Husband's Secret, by Liane Moriarty

Click for availability and more information Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline

Click for availability and more information The Silent Wife, by A.S.A. Harrison

Click for availability and more information The Son, by Philipp Meyer

David's List

Click for availability and more information Chicago Moves, by Gaudete Brass Quintet
The Gaudete Brass Quintet performs consistently intriguing, often fascinating works by seven contemporary American composers. 

Click for availability and more information Legends Live: Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, by Dizzy Gillespie Quintet
Maestro Gillespie at the top of his game leads a quintet featuring exemplary work by pianist Lalo Schifrin, drummer Mel Lewis, and saxophonist Leo Wright. Recorded in Frankfurt in 1961.

Click for availability and more information Piano Concerto o. 1: "Pìobaireachd"; Piano concerto no. 2 : "Hindustani", by Erik Chisholm
Both of Scottish composer Erik Chisholm (1904-1965)'s piano concerti are here. The first is redolent of Scotland, the locale which inspired its creation. Pianist Danny Driver and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra perform this lovely and accessible music with sensitivity and brio. The second work is in a more challenging harmonic idiom, deriving from Indian raga forms, but played with no less commitment.

Click for availability and more information Überjam Deux , by John Scofield
Jazz guitarist John Scofield is at his funkiest here. 

Nancy's Pick

Click for availability and more information Diary of a Provincial Lady, by E.M. Delafield
Life in a small English village with two children, a husband, a governess/nursery maid, and a not very stable staff, is portrayed in a rather tongue-in-cheek manner, using asides to herself, in this fictional diary. Her comments on herself and her friends and neighbors (not always the same) are lighthearted and amusing. 

Stephen's List


Click for availability and more information The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
Not a very original choice, I know but this is a remarkable novel. It's nearly 800 pages but reads like its 200; there's never a dull moment. Let's hope nobody tries to make it into a movie. 

Click for availability and more information Punk 45: the singles cover art of punk 1975-80 , edited by Jon Savage and Stuart Baker
There has been quite a few books about the history of punk rock published in the past few years. This one is the best. It features the original full-size singles cover art of hundreds of punk bands with details and commentary, plus interviews with the tastemakers of the time, Richard Hell, Geoff Travis (Rough Trade Records), Peter Saville (Factory Records). It's beautifully designed, like many of the records discussed within. A great coffee table book for the aging hipster. To coincide in with the book, Soul Jazz Records has also released this, the first in a series. 


Click for availability and more information Light Up Gold, by Parquet Courts
I especially love how Parquet Courts seem to be in a such a hurry. Light Up Gold features 15 songs in 33 minutes. The band careens their way through the post-punk landscape, throwing nods at The Fall, The Undertones and The Fire Engines among others. With barely a gap between songs, the record leaves you smiling and little bit breathless.

Click for availability and more information First Issue, by Public Image, Ltd
A very welcome and overdue re-issue of Public Image Ltd. debut record, which many credit as the first post-punk record.Finished with the circus that was the Sex Pistols, John Lydon gathered up an incredible band and released this record full of abrasive, angry and, at times, funky songs. Among the first records to incorporate dub into their sound, "First Issue" changed the playing field for all that came after. This still sounds as great as the first time I heard it.

Click for availability and more information World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who Is William Onyeabor?, by William Onyeabor
This is the first time a record label has successfully licensed the music of William Onyeabor, the mysterious widely bootlegged Nigerian artist/producer. A fascinating person, Onyeabor released eight much sought after lp's between 1977 and 1985. This collection features songs from these records. The songs, mostly extended call-and-response disco-funk jams driven by the space-age sound of synthesizers and drum machines are filtered through Onyeabor's unique worldview and are like nothing you've heard before.

Michele's List


Click for availability and more information Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the prison of belief , by Lawrence Wright


Click for availability and more information Light Years, by James Salter


Click for availability and more information The Bling Ring, directed by Sofia Coppola

Click for availability and more information Hannah Arendt, directed by Margarethe von Trotta

Carl's Pick's

When I looked back at the books and DVDs I reviewed for the Staff Picks, I was amazed at how many I really enjoyed this year. It's not like I intentionally picked out most of these titles: it was more just "dumb luck". I tried to look at one DVD and one book each month. I read "Mick Jagger" by Philip Norman and "Life" by Keith Richards with James Fox. Although "Mick Jaggar" was interesting, "Life" was far and away the better book. It was more honest, delving into real life of the Rolling Stones. I believe the book was more honest about the relationships between the group and their entourage. "Life" is about 3 times longer, but well worth the time investment. Selecting my favorite DVD was undoubtedly the hardest decision! I viewed "Forgotten", "Cosmopolis", "Lawless" and "Looper". I also looked at "Rubber", the story of an abandoned tire that terrorizes a town. You can put this right up there with "The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" and "Surf Nazis Must Die". (I'm sure it has its own cult following!) The DVD that really blew me away was "War Horse". It's the story of a boy who is separated from his horse at the beginning of World War I. The horse is requisitioned for the British military. Through circumstance, he ends up working for the Germans until he is freed to try and find his way home. I could almost read the horse's mind as he encountered each new adventure. The plot was strong, the special effects were mind-boggling and the acting was superb.

Everett's List

Graphic Novels

Click for availability and more information The Children of Palomar, by Gilbert Hernandez
I have never been the biggest fan of Hernandez's work, but this year he hit a grand slam with three excellent graphic novels, The Children of Palomar, Julio's Day and Marble Season. All are imbedded with his usual spirited doses of magical realism, but he avoids the excesses of past work with focused, humane and relatable stories. 


Click for availability and more information Ensemble Pearl, by Ensemble Pearl
Past meetings between like-minded Japanese sludge/noise rockers Boris and drone metalers Sunn O))) have sounded like a too-clean mix of their respective elements, but Ensemble Pearl transcend those boundaries. Charging forward like an unholy concoction of Glenn Branca, Ennio Morricone and Morton Feldman, the Ensemble keeps things varied and grounded within their low frequency sound world

Click for availability and more information The Art of David Tudor, by David Tudor
The New World Records label has done an incredible job of late by compiling the classic works of American avant garde composers. This collection of Tudor's recordings stands tall along with the label's Alvin Curran and M.E.V. retrospectives. Tudor is well known for his collaborations with John Cage, but his early pre-computer work with electronics is still cutting edge, freely venturing into fields of musique concrete, systems music, noise and improvisation. 


Click for availability and more information Only God Forgives, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

If you were expecting Drive Part Two, then don't even bother watching this. But if you are a fan of director Nicolas Winding Refn, then you will find much to love here. While Valhalla Rising was Refn's take on the Viking movie genre, Only God Forgives is his homage to Asian action cinema- except he left the action by the wayside. The anticlimactic fight scene between Ryan Gosling and the "devil" is a highlight of a film which defies expectations at every turn, instead focusing on atmosphere and a strong oedipal theme.

Click for availability and more information Upstream Color, directed by Shane Carruth
Director Shane Carruth is known for films which tackle "big ideas," but with Upstream Color he truly outdoes himself. For the first thirty minutes or so you may struggle to understand exactly what it is you are watching, but by all means stick it out until the end. You are essentially following the peculiar life cycle of a parasitic organism, but along the way Carruth exploits our own modern anxieties about food tampering, identity theft, medicine, Wall Street high jinks and basic human connection. He does not succeed 100% of the time, but rarely do directors take on this much and produce such mind-blowing results. 

Ed's List


Click for availability and more information Archie Meets Nero Wolfe: a prequel to Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries , by Robert Goldsborough

Click for availability and more information Ask Not: Nathan Heller Mystery , by Max Collins

Click for availability and more information The Beatles: all these years, by Mark Lewisohn

Click for availability and more information Complex 90: a Mike Hammer mystery, by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Click for availability and more information The Long War: a Long Earth novel , by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Click for availability and more information The Ocean at the End of the Lane , by Neil Gaiman

Click for availability and more information The Reason I Jump: the inner voice of a thirteen-year-old boy with autism , by Naoki Higashida

Click for availability and more information Sylo, by D.J. MacHale

Click for availability and more information Harlan Ellison's 7 Against Chaos, by Harlan Ellison & Paul Chadwick

Click for availability and more information The Simon & Kirby Library: Science Fiction , by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby


Click for availability and more information Another Self Portrait: (1969-1971), by Bob Dylan

Click for availability and more information Live at the BBC, volume 2, On Air , by The Beatles

Click for availability and more information Magna Carta Holy Grail, by Jay Z

Click for availability and more information Wise Up Ghost: and other songs, by Elvis Costello and the Roots

Click for availability and more information Yeezus, by Kanye West


Click for availability and more information Seconds, directed by John Frankenheimer

Click for availability and more information The Uninvited, directed by Lewis Allen

Click for availability and more information White Zombie, directed by Victor Halperin

Roy's Picks

Click for availability and more information The English Girl: a Gabriel Allon novel , by Daniel Silva
The latest in the Silva's political thriller series featuring Gabriel Allon, The English Girl, released in 2013, shows why Silva's books have become so widely read. After the disappearance of an English girl vacationing on the island of Corsica, Allon becomes involved in the attempt to find her before she is killed. As usual with Allon, he becomes involved in political intrigues and the reader is given yet another entertaining and interesting tale of adventure from Daniel Silva. For those who have not read a book in the Gabriel Allon series, perhaps it is best to start with Silva's first Allon book, The Kill Artist. Silva often refers to other adventures Allon has had in his books and that adds to the fun and enjoyment of his writing.

Click for availability and more information The Genius of Venice: Piazza San Marco and the making of the Republic , by Dial Parrott
For anyone who has been to the intriguingly wonderful city of Venice or has any interest in going, this terrifically interesting book is a real treat. Filled with beautiful photographs, Parrott traces the origins of Venice, which is a remarkable tale unto itself. Early settlers and builders of Venice, determined to create a city safe from invasion of nomadic tribes from the mainland, created an incredible city on islands in a lagoon. The text gives a history as to how this unique city surrounded by water became a world power in medieval times. The Genius of Venice is a great 2013 book.

Our erudite and clever staff chimes in once again to share with you their favorite things from 2012. Take a look when you have a moment, you may find something that you overlooked the first time around. Or maybe you'll discover something brand new.

Thanks to all of for helping to make the this year a great one for the Library and all who work here. We appreciate all the kind words and support we've heard throughout the year.

The fine staff of the Children's room starts things off with their favorite children's and young adult titles of the year.

Picture Books

Click for availability and more information Bear has a story to tell, by Philip C. Stead ; illustrated by Erin E. Stead
A beautiful, sweet book by the 2011 Caldecott Winners of A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Bear has a story to share with his friends mole, duck, mouse and frog who are busy getting ready for winter's arrival. Preschool-Grade 2

Click for availability and more information Big Mean Mike, by Michelle Knudsen ; illustrations by Scott Magoon
Fluffy, white, adorable bunnies are hard to resist. This humorous book is about the toughest dog in town with the meanest, noisiest car. Big Mean Mike finds one fluffy bunny after another in his cool car and tries to find ways to get rid of them before they ruin his reputation. Preschool-Grade 2

Click for availability and more information Cindy Moo, by Lori Mortensen ; illustrated by Jeff Mack
When Cindy Loo hears the line in the nursery rhyme, "And the cow jumped over the moon", she sets out to do just that, even when the other cows laugh at her.

Click for availability and more information Each Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson ; illustrated by E.B. Lewis
The watercolor illustrations and thought provoking story will start many discussion in classrooms and at home. After her teacher gives a lesson on kindness, Chloe realizes that she and her friends have not treated a classmate very well and she longs for a chance to make it right. Grades 2-5

Click for availability and more information Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett ; illustrated by Jon Klassen
I read this picture book aloud to many students during class visits to the library. The illustrations are wonderful and the story is magical. Annabelle finds a box filled with colorful yarn and her knitting transforms her cold, dark town. Annabelle knits for her friends, neighbors and animals and it seems her box contains an endless supply of yarn. Students love to share their thoughts about Annabelle's mysterious yarn box, and what they would want an endless supply of in their own magical box. Grades K-3.

Click for availability and more information Happy, by Mies van Hout
An almost wordless book for one-on-one sharing or a small group. The author uses fish with different facial expressions and postures to portray 20 different emotions. A great book for interaction and discussion about feelings with pre-school children.

Click for availability and more information Penny and her song, by Kevin Henkes
This is the first entry in a new beginning reader series by the Caldecott Medal-winning author. Henkes introduces sweet and curious little mouse Penny, who longs to share a new counting song she has learned at school but is stopped by her parents who fear she will wake the babies. Penny's dilemma is resolved when the whole family gathers for her solo performance, singing a catching tune from one to ten and putting the siblings to sleep in the process.


Children's Books

Click for availability and more information Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
Children's Services loves this story and "wondered" whether it would resonate as much with children. It does. Children come in to request it, to rave about the book, and to ask for stories similar to it. Wonder tells the story of Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and is entering fifth grade at a private middle school after years of homeschooling. Told from multiple points of view, including Auggie, his sister, and several friends. School Library Journal notes that "everyone grows and develops as the story progresses, especially the middle school students. This is a fast read and would be a great discussion starter about love, support, and judging people on their appearance. A well-written, thought-provoking book." Recommended for grades 4-7.

Young Adult

Click for availability and more information Cinder: a Lunar chronicles novel , by Marissa Meyer



Click for availability and more information Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi


And here are a few more young adult titles from our teen committee:

Click for availability and more information The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein Book 1 : This dark endeavor, by Kenneth Oppel
Fifteen year old Victor Frankenstein struggles with feelings of inferiority towards his identical twin brother Konrad. While exploring the family home in Geneva with friends Elizabeth and Henry, the twins find a secret library filled with books on the occult. When Konrad becomes gravely ill, Victor becomes obsessed with alchemy and with creating the Elixer of Life to save his brother. During his search for the necessary ingredients, Victor's belief in the powers of the elixer take hold of him, changing the course of their lives forever. 

Click for availability and more information The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
A book about childhood cancer; it doesn't sound appealing at first glance, but it is filled with immensely appealing characters. This book follows the stories of several teenage cancer patients who meet in a support group. Augustus, Hazel and Isaac look at their lives and their illness with the frankness and irony common to teenagers. They have hobbies, dreams and relationship problems, but they live with the reality that their lives will not be long. Somehow John Green, without pity or sentimentality, manages to provide a peek into a world that most people fortunately never glimpse. Readers should push aside their reluctance to read this book for fear it will be depressing. I recommend this title to young adults and their parents. This book is written by an acclaimed author of young adult fiction and is on the 2012 list of Teens' Top Ten, a list chosen by young adult readers. Please watch this video of the author John Green reading the first chapter.

Click for availability and more information Dodger, by Terry Pratchett


Click for availability and more information Batman: Earth one , written by, Geoff Johns ; pencils by, Gary Frank ; inks by Jonathan Sibal ; color by Brad Anderson ; lettered by Rob Leigh


Click for availability and more information Code name Verity , by Elizabeth Wein


Click for availability and more information The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater



And here's what the rest of our staff has to say:

Click for availability and more information Ghostman, by Roger Hobbs
In Atlantic City a casino heist goes bad and "Jack" (our eponymous Ghostman) is called in to clean up the mess and find the money. It's not a job he actually wants to do, but he has a debt to pay for a job he botched years ago and the ruthless crime lord he owes isn't the type to forgive and forget. Jack must work against the clock and use all of his skills and cunning to outmaneuver the Feds and a rival crime lord before all $1.2 million of the casino take goes up in flames. I got the opportunity to read an advance copy of Ghostman and Roger Hobbs has written a taut, fast-paced crime thriller that will be hard to put down. This is an impressive debut novel from an author who, by my estimation, has a bright writing career ahead of him.

Click for availability and more information The Balkan Project, by Cavatina Duo
The recording I seem to be returning to most often recently is Balkan Project by the Cavatina Duo. The Library catalog describes this CD accurately enough as "Arrangements of traditional Balkan songs and dances for flute and guitar". What this phrase doesn't capture however is the virtuosity of both flautist Eugenia Moliner and guitarist Denis Azabagic and their almost telepathic interplay in service of lovely melodies, many of which are in odd-numbered time signatures. Much of this music doesn't sound particularly Balkan in origin -- more Pan-Southern European. Regardless, the often poignant lyricism of the material speaks directly to the emotions.

Click for availability and more information Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
Walter re-imagines the lives of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor beginning at the time of the filming of Cleopatra in Rome. He has inserted a cast of memorable fictional characters into their lives to create an entertaining tale. In addition to Rome the narrative is set in a sleepy fictional hamlet on the Italian coast and in L. A. It weaves the threads of several story lines through nearly fifty years in amusing and occasionally tragic ways.

Click for availability and more information We Sinners, by Hanna Pylväinen
This slim first novel draws on the author's own life experiences. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the nine children and the parents in a large Midwestern family. Their lives are circumscribed by the beliefs and practices of the strict fundamentalist Finnish Lutheran church to which they belong. Each individual relates how he or she struggles to find his or her place in their family and in the world. Pylvainen who grew up near Detroit as a Laestadian Lutheran has written a sensitive portrait of family members wrestling with forbidden desires and trying to maintain their love for one another.

Click for availability and more information The Garner Files: a memoir , by James Garner
Out of the eleven books I reviewed this year, I'd have to say The Garner Files was my favorite! I read this book last March on the train when I went to visit my daughter in Charlotte. James Garner is one of my favorite actors, and I was very curious about his background. It was nothing like I expected! His mother died when he was young, his father was an absentee parent always on the road, and he and his brother were brought up by relatives. He never finished school, and never had any formal training in acting. Garner got into acting because a friend kept on prodding him. And he was a natural! This book relates his dealings with unscrupulous Hollywood managers, temperamental actors and humorous situations. He worked with some of the greatest actors of all times. As I mentioned in my earlier Staff Pick, I came away with a greater appreciation for the man James Garner. You should read it. I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

Click for availability and more information The Cherry Thing, by Neneh Cherry & the Thing
A collaboration between vocalist Neneh Cherry and Scandinavian instrumental jazz trio The Thing. Over the course of this lurching and powerful record they cover songs by the like of Suicide, The Stooges and Ornette Coleman, among others. They manage to put their own stamp on these songs. The band, made up of bass, drums and saxophone build walls of tension behind Cherry's vocals creating a singular sound.

Click for availability and more information The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, by The Flaming Lips
Only Wayne Coyne and his band could actually pull off this idea, a double album featuring different "guests" on each track without things turning into a crazy jumbled mess. As it turns out, almost whoever they threw into this stew manages to hold their own and add to the band's heavy and discomforting sound. This CD version pales a bit in comparison to the now out of print double vinyl version by adding a few unnecessary touches but still, it's confounding how it all comes together.

Click for availability and more information Swing lo Magellan , by Dirty Projectors
The sheer joy on display here from the band manages to overcome their many pretensions. Plus, this features the year's best guitar riff...easily.

Click for availability and more information Pulphead: essays, by John Jeremiah Sullivan
John Jeremiah Sullivan makes essay writing seem so easy. With an easy charm and a quiet confidence,he immediately puts the reader at ease. His quirky choices of subjects doesn't hurt either; my favorite essay leads the book off. In it he visits a christian rock festival. He was ready to make fun of these folks and, he still does but also gains a grudging admiration for them. But really, anywhere you open this book you're bound to find a charmer. Currently, Mr . Sullivan is writing frequently for the New York Times Magazine, where he most recently told us about his "Multiday Massage-a-thon."


Click for availability and more information John Carter
(the critics were WRONG!)

Click for availability and more information The Woman in Black

Click for availability and more information When Horror came to Shochiku
Four classic Japanese horror films from the 60s finally available from Criterion.

Click for availability and more information Blunderbuss, by Jack White

Click for availability and more information Bish Bosch, by Scott Walker


Click for availability and more information Tempest, by Bob Dylan


Click for availability and more information Lady, go die!: a Mike Hammer mystery, by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins


Click for availability and more information Redshirts, by John Scalzi

Click for availability and more information Leviathan Wakes: an Expanse novel, by James S.A. Corey


Click for availability and more information The Big Book of Ghost Stories , edited by Otto Penzler
Lots of classic horror tales by a very diverse collection of writers from H.P. Lovecraft to Joyce Carol Oates.

Click for availability and more information Shadow show : an anthology of original short fiction by 26 authors, each of whom was inspired by the legendary work of Ray Bradbury, edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle

Click for availability and more information The Voice is All: the lonely victory of Jack Kerouac , by Joyce Johnson


Click for availability and more information Marvel Comics: the untold story , by Sean Howe


Click for availability and more information Jack Kerouac: collected poems, edited by Marilene Phipps-Kettlewell


Click for availability and more information Assassins Creed 3, by Ubisoft
Ever wondered what downtown Boston and New York looked like during the revolutionary war? Well the designers at Ubisoft have accurately recreated both cities as your playground (in fact a good portion of the eastern seaboard can be explored). This game offers a historical fiction plot line with a serious sci-fi twist. Whether on missions or moving around in free play, this game is sure to become your next great time suck! As an Assassin, your job is to stop the evil Templars (who are responsible for the death of your mother). I highly recommend this to anyone who has an extra 100 hrs at their disposal! My favorite parts are participating in the Boston Tea Party and befriending Samuel Adams. Who said learning wasn't fun!

Click for availability and more information Jerusalem: chronicles from the Holy City, by Guy Delisle; coloured by Lucie Firoud & Guy Delisle; translated by Helge Dascher
Cartoonist Guy Delisle has made a career of combining his NGO work with graphic novel travelogues. With Jerusalem he has reached a pinnacle of sorts, by masterly weaving together his day to day struggles living within the city and highlighting it's historical relevance and cultural diversity. Though they are covered, the political realities of the city rarely take center stage here, as Delisle is careful not to overshadow his narrative with the ongoing conflict. By doing so, Delisle succeeds in giving us a report from the frontlines that is remarkably humane.

Click for availability and more information The Turin Horse, directed by Bela Tarr
Hungarian director Béla Tarr has claimed that this will be his last film and it is indeed a masterwork. Shot in 30 long takes, the film's slow pace, somber repetitiveness and bleak outlook will turn away most audiences; but if you are in the mood for a Nietzchean reflection on the endtimes, this is the film for you. I found it incredibly moving, the kind of film that sticks with you for an eternity. Words truly do not do this film justice, each viewer should be left to interpret it on their own.

Click for availability and more information Black is Beautiful, by Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland
Under the moniker Hype Williams, Blunt and Copeland have released a plethora of material on mixtapes and blogs over the past few years. In the process they have built up a rabid cult following within the online underground music community. With Black is Beautiful, the UK duo have lived up to this praise and continued their prolific streak with a very non-traditional release. Every track on the disc feels like a work in progress, yet they all flow together as if premeditated. Throwing together disparate strains of free jazz, hip hop and reggae the duo take the trip hop sound laid down by artists like Tricky and Portishead over a decade ago, disassemble it and reconfigure for an uncertain future.

Click for availability and more information Lucifer, by Peaking Lights
Lucifer is a joyous celebration of low-fidelity musical mysticism. Peaking Lights combination of dance music refuse, dub and lo-fi/indie rock tropes is hypnotically dizzying in its scope. Unlike other acts mining similar territory, they approach their sound without an ounce of irony or self-awareness and this makes all the difference- as their sincerity shines through.

Click for availability and more information Rose: my life in service to Lady Astor, by Rosina Harrison
This is an engaging memoir by a woman, Rosina Harrisson, who made a career of being a lady's maid in the early to mid 20th century. During her life in service to famous and sometimes infamous Nancy Astor, she achieved her life dream of travel and adventure. It is interesting to compare her version of life upstairs and downstairs with the popular Downton Abbey and Gosford Park. It is also an excellent read in preparation for the new biography of Nancy Astor by Adrian Fort to be published in the US in January 2013. Nancy was an American southern belle divorcee who made a brilliant marriage to Waldorf Astor and became among many things, the first woman elected to the House of Commons where she stayed for 25 years.And Rose was with her the whole time keeping her clothes and diamonds in order as well as her renowned temper. This was no mean accomplishment for, a Yorkshire country girl. Enjoy!

Picks from our Cos Cob staff

Click for availability and more information Sandcastle Girls, by Chris Bohjalian


Click for availability and more information The Orchardist, by Amanda Coplin


Click for availability and more information Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail , by Cheryl Strayed



Click for availability and more information Before the Poison, by Peter Robinson


Click for availability and more information The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty


Click for availability and more information Where'd you go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple


As you might expect, the Greenwich Library staff are an erudite bunch; opinionated too. Here are some of their favorite things from the past year.

My Favorite Design Books

Click for availability and more informationDesign Sponge at Home, by Grace Bonney
This is an amazing book by the creator of the popular design blog Design*Sponge. The book features beautiful photos and illustrations with home tours, realistic DIY projects with helpful step-by-step tutorials, and before and after makeovers. If you're looking to personalize your home on a budget, and need to know how to do it all yourself, this is the perfect place to start.

Click for availability and more informationBlack & White (and a bit in between), by Celerie Kemble
Black and white is my absolute favorite color combination. It is striking, dramatic and glamorous but can also be soothing and understated. In addition to her own, designer Celerie Kemble includes rooms by other well known designers, so you experience many points of view along the common theme of black and white. Kemble also covers adding neutrals and pops of color to accentuate your space. Great for inspiration.

Kate P.

Some 2011 highlights

Click for availability and more informationBeginners, directed by Mike Mills
This deft and charming film focuses on sad guy Oliver Fields, played by Ewan McGregor, as he comes to terms with the death of his father and his attempt, after many failures, at a meaningful relationship. The story, told in flashbacks as well as the present (well, 2003 but, close enough,) allows us to see the baggage that Oliver is carrying around in his adult life. We learn that after his mother dies his father, which much aplomb, comes out of the closet. And, in a way, it's the story of Oliver coming out of his own closet of sadness and self-doubt. He begins a romance with the lovely Anna (played by the super cute Melanie Laurent))after they meet at a costume party. It's the scenes of their sometimes awkward courtship that are intermixed with the back story of Oliver's life. Neither of them is very good at relationships and, thanks to Mills excellent script, we learn why Oliver is reticent but we are offered just brief clues as to what lies in Anna's past.Despite the fact that they are in their late 30's, they are still beginners.

Christopher Plummer nearly steals the show as Oliver's dad and, even despite the presence of a cute little dog, things never get too precious.

Click for availability and more informationOur Lives are Shaped by What We love: Motown's Mowest Story 1971-1973, by various artists
Who knew that, in the early '70's, Motown records founder Berry Gordy, Jr. ran a left coast version of his legendary Detroit record label. It was called Mowest and was dedicated to the grooving sounds of the west coast, with a sharp eye on the top of the charts. (Those were the days when top ten records really mattered.) Even though the label released over forty singles and close to a dozen albums the hits never happened and the imprint called it a day in 1973. But...that doesn't mean the music wasn't worthwhile because, in retrospect there were scores of great songs that were released during that time. Forty plus years later the best of those have been collected on this beautiful re-issue. Nearly every track is a winner and what's most striking is the wide variety of styles found on the collection. There's quite a bit of top shelf R&B, of course, by the like of such unknowns as Syreeta, G.C. Cameron and Sister Love but there's some nice Topanga Canyonesque rock from Lodi and some straight up hippie sounds from Odyssey. And after listening to this record I guarantee you that you'll never think about Frankie Valli & the Four seasons. They show up twice here, once offering up a fierce Meters like funk workout with a killer horn break called "Sun Country." The real highlight is a sneaky number by Syreeta called "I Love Everything Little Thing About You" that captures the breezy west coast sound Gordy was after with Mowest. It features an unmistakable Stevie Wonder on keyboards (he also produced her record for Mowest) and brings a synthesizer inflected funk sound to the track. I'd love to hear the whole record someday. This one was a super nice surprise.

Click for availability and more informationClick for availability and more informationJernigan & Preston Falls, by David Gates
If all this Holiday cheer has you down I can recommend the writing of David Gates. While they aren't necessarily new (they were published in 1991 and 1998) these novels they're new to me. The men In these books, Peter Jernigan and Doug Willis, manage to wreck nearly everything and everyone they come in contact with. Jernigan is a self-centered drunk who is trying to come to terms with the death of his wife, who apparently was a bigger drunk than him. His dubious method of doing so is to drink even more than he used to and by losing his job. And, just when you think he can't sink any lower he moves in with the mother of his son's girlfriend. It's a creepy arrangement but it works...for a little while. It's a grim story but Gates makes it compulsively readable by creating characters that are entirely believable. He also adds a healthy dose of gallows humor to the book. Expanding on the same ground that Raymond Carver covered, Gates offers up a glimpse of a life that's spinning out of control. It's unclear if Jernigan actually wants to get well (at times he seems perfectly content to be a wretched drunk.) He doesn't do a whole lot of soul searching but, despite his shortcomings, he is still saved from his certain demise by his sadly neglected son. It's a powerful book that, in the wrong hands could have been too much. But Gates knows the territory well and cushions the blow with a strong dose of humanity.

In Preston Falls,  Doug Willis isn't much better but at least he has a job. He's also smack in the middle of a mid-life crisis. To combat that, he decides to take a sabbatical from his corporate job and head to his summer house in Vermont with the intention of fixing it up. He leaves his wife and kids to fend for themselves. But a series of poor decisions ends turning his vacation into a nightmare. Throughout the book Gates drops hints that Willis's marriage has been on the rocks from quite some time. His wife is resentful that he's left but, in a way she seems thankful as well. His absence is one less hardship for her to deal with. Soon after his arrival in Preston Falls Willis falls in with some disreputable townies and before you know it, things are spinning out of control. He handles it about as poorly as a person could and ends penniless and on the run. And once again it's his wife, friend and family that do their best to get things squared away. Even though things are rough for a good portion of the novel, Gates leaves us with a little glimmer of hope.

Gates has scarcely been heard from since the publication of Preston Falls. Besides a short story collection there has been nothing. I can't help but suspect that some of the issues that surround his male characters come from direct experience. I also get the feeling that writing these books was a very difficult process. One that he may still be recovering from.


Click for availability and more informationMajor Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson
Helen Simonson has written a real charmer of a book with Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. Whether one is a avid or infrequent reader, this book can be a thoroughly entertaining and rewarding reading experience. The Major Pettigrew of the title is a retired, widowed British military officer recovering from the death of his brother. A chance encounter with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shop keeper, is the starting point of a friendship based, at first, on a mutual love of literature. Set in a seemingly tranquil English small town, the balance of this very well-crafted story follows the events in Pettigrew's life as he rediscovers the fact that joy can return to his life. While Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is Helen Simonson's first novel, this reviewer is hopeful that she will continue to write books as enjoyable as this one. The bonus of reading the Random House Reader's Circle edition available at the Greenwich Library is an interview with Simonson as well as a readers discussion section. This would be a great selection for a book club.

Briefly, if this reviewer were to pick the best books read in 2011, the fiction winner would be Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson and for nonfiction, it would be Founding Gardeners : The Revolutionary Generation, Nature and the Shaping of the American Nation by Andrea Wulf. That book is reviewed in the Staff Picks column. 


Click for availability and more informationChamber Music, Vols 1-3, by Rodolfo Halffter
My musical discovery of the year is the Spanish/Mexican composer Rodolfo Halffter (1900-1987). The Library owns a series of three CDs (COMP DISC 785.1 HALFF) devoted to his chamber music and I was particularly impressed with the third installment. The distinctive mix of neo-classicism and accessible atonalism on this recording has led me to more repeat listenings than any other recent release. All three discs can also be auditioned via Naxos Music Library on the Digital Music Page of the Library's website.

Click for availability and more informationComplete Music for Piano, by Joaquin Rodrigo
Joaquin Rodrigo isn't particularly well known for his compositions for piano. However, I discovered his Complete Music for Piano a few months ago via the Library's subscription to Naxos Music Library and continue to revisit this uniformly charming release regularly. Magisterially played by Gregory Allen, the two disc set is also available on CD (COMP DISC 786.2 RODRI) at the Main Library.


Click for availability and more informationAll the Devils are Here: the Hidden History of the Financial Crisis, by Bethany McLean & Joe Nocera
If you are still looking to read a single book that will explain the cause of the continuing recession, All the Devils Are Here is the right one to read. One of the authors, Bethany McLean, is also the author of the highly readable Enron expose, The Smartest Guys in the Room, and Joe Nocera is a business columnist for The New York Times. They two have woven together the history of the mortgage industry, the historical role of the U.S. government in promoting home ownership, backgrounds of the many financial institutions that devised financial instruments to trade mortgages and the human failures at all levels. They show that there is plenty of blame to go around.


Click for availability and more informationGerminal, by Emile Zola
"Out on the open plain, on a starless, ink-dark night, a lone man was following the highway from Marchiennes to Montsou,1 ten kilometres of paved road that cut directly across the fields of beet." That first sentence and Nicholas Kristoff's recommendation in the NYT last summer led me to tackle a major novel of the 19th century. This work describes coal miners in France during a strike in the 1860s. The miners are not just the simple poor, but complex men and women living an impossibly bleak life. The mine owners and managers are multifaceted characters also buffeted by the changes of the Industrial Revolution. This book resonates long after a rousing group discussion. Read this novel and you will understand the labor movement as never before. I can't recommend Germinal highly enough

Click for availability and more informationClick for availability and more informationNarrow Dog to Carcassone & Narrow Dog to Indian River, by Terry Darlington
These are among the funniest books I've read. "We could bore ourselves to death, drink ourselves to death, or have a bit of an adventure..." Retired Welsh couple Terry and Monica Darlington and their whippet Jim, take a couple of journeys on their narrowboat (a canal boat), first down the Rhone River to the south of France, and then down the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. It quickly becomes clear why no narrowboat has been seen in the Eastern U.S. These two books are comic, poignant, dangerous and joyful. If you love the witty observations of Bill Bryson, and if you love Mark Twain, these two books will be right up your alley!


Games of the Year

Click for availability and more information The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, developed and published by Bethesda Softworks
Bethesda's fifth entry in its popular Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim, is pure fun. Explore a massive and beautifully detailed world as just about any kind of character you want to be with a multitude of things to do. Just make sure you wear some knee armor


Click for availability and more informationJust Dance 3, developed and published by Ubi Soft.
Just Dance 3: Wow. As an early adopter of the Wii version of Dance Dance Revolution, I was sure I was going to like this game. But I had no way of knowing how ridiculously fun it would be to dance by myself in my living room. Do I look like a complete idiot? Most definitely! Am I having an amazing time and learning ridiculous dance moves that will certainly be displayed at the next wedding I attend? Yes! I've never been to a wedding where a good representation of the Robot is not appreciated. I also had the opportunity of playing multiplayer. It's like being in a music video and if I can convince someone to memorize some of these dance moves with me, I will have a full on performance planned in the near future. And for anyone looking for some physical activity, look no further. This game will get your heart pumping . The basics are simple. Pick your song (literally any genre) and follow the choreographed dance moves of the character. Your movements are judged on how closely they mimic the character and points are awarded accordingly.

** I should note that all dogs, people and furniture that you don't want impaled by flailing limbs should be moved as far away as possible as you will dance like you have never danced before.

Click for availability and more informationL.A. Noire, developed and published by Rockstar Games
I love crime shows. And playing this video game was like taking control of a crime show set in LA in 1947. Rock Star Games, who also created the Grand Theft Auto series and Red Dead Redemption, is responsible for this epic tale of murder, drugs, and corruption. So the synopsis of the game is as follows. You're an ex soldier who returned from the war to become a police officer in LA in 1947. As you solve crimes you are slowly promoted. Solving crimes involve all of our favorite things Rock Star Games has offered us over the years: shooting, fighting and driving fast. Unlike other Rock Star Games however, this one is slightly more structured and setup more like a level-up kind of game. Each case involves interrogations, clues, chases and or shoot-outs and not all conclude with a happy ending. I don't usually play a game for its graphics, but not mentioning them in this game would be doing this review a disservice. For anyone with an interest in old historical Hollywood, this game gives an unbelievably accurate representation. The sheer detail of the land makes you stop and look around. And the characters in the game look so real you actually can read their facial expressions. For any movie history buffs, this game will certainly excite you. The game is made to have that "Film Noire" look to it. It's dark, gritty and there's a crime of passion around every corner. It also references a lot of the emotions many men and women were going through post WWII (which for me, seems to be pretty deep for a video game). I highly suggested giving this game a shot, just be prepared to devote 60 hours of your next month!

Click for availability and more informationLego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 , by Warner Home Video
As a fan of the Lego series games I am rarely disappointed by the release of another Lego game. And Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 held up to my expectations. All the basic game play is the same as previous Lego games. You break blocks and build them, wizardry can be used to move items and potions help you change characters. They added a few helpful hints to help you complete the game at 100% (which I was certainly grateful for). Much like the books and movies this game takes a dark turn during the last 4 chapters. Things have gotten a lot more serious for Harry. However, the game still takes the liberty to make small jokes whenever possible (which I appreciate- Keep your eye out for the Monty Python reference). I am not as familiar with the Harry Potter story as I am with some of the other Lego franchises. However, I was still able to complete the game. After unlocking several characters you are able to return to Hogwarts and unlock the evil areas as Lord Voldemort or perform new spells on signing mandrakes. Each level has characters to unlock and crests to collect. Red bricks can be found throughout Hogwarts (unlocking these give you extra abilities) and there are a total of 200 gold bricks to collect! The one thing I noticed first when playing this game is how much of the base area they expanded since Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4. There is still Diagon Alley and Hogwarts, but they have also added some parts of London and the train stations. Seeing these areas in the movies was cool, but interacting with them in a video game is even cooler! In the end this game is not really that hard, but it is fun and lasts long enough so that you can really enjoy the game play.


Click for availability and more informationLife Itself, by Roger Ebert
Having lost the ability to speak, eat and drink due to multiple surgeries for thyroid cancer, Roger Ebert has written an eloquent memoir. He recalls his early life in the Midwest, his career in journalism as a film critic, and stories about his colleagues, celebrity actors and movie directors. He writes lovingly about his relationship with his father and honestly about his own and his mother's struggles with alcoholism as well as their divergent views of the Catholic church. His vivid memories of meals he has savored are entertainingly recalled. The account of how in later life he met and married his supportive wife, Chaz and bonded with her large extended family is especially endearing. Edward Herrman's narration of the cd version of the text is perfect.


Click for availability and more informationThe Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia, by Paul Theroux
When I thought back to the books I've read in 2011, the one that stood out in my mind was "The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia" by Paul Theroux.It reminded me of the great Agatha Christie novel "Murder On the Orient Express". Theroux decided to take a train trip to a warm, dry climate to shake off an illness brought on by the cold, damp British climate.He meets a motley crew of characters as he transfers from train to train. Train politics consists of bribing the conductor for an upgrade in accommodations. The trains seem to vary in their conformance to any kind of schedule. There are colorful descriptions of people and landscapes, as well as local customs. Sacred temples and sites are used differently from country to country. Perhaps the most striking aspect is the abject poverty visible across Eurasia. If you'd like to read a book with a touch of romanticism from an earlier time and space, and a stark look at other cultures, I suggest you download this e-book


Click for availability and more informationAdventure Time: My Two Favorite People.
The only television program I watch with any regularity, Cartoon Network's Adventure Time, is a rollercoaster ride of fun and surrealism. An added bonus is having a show that I can enjoy on equal footing with my 9 year old son!  Read more here.

Click for availability and more informationMusic for Merce, by Various Artists
The New World Records label has really outdone themselves with this 10 CD boxset. Chronicling over fifty years of music written/performed for Merce Cunningham's dance pieces, the names here are a who's who of modern music: John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, David Tudor, Morton Feldman, Gordon Mumma, and many more. The music is incredibly challenging, using primitive electronics and amplification processes to open up new avenues of composition. If you are a fan of experimental music, this boxset is simply manna from heaven.

Click for availability and more informationThe Viola Works, by Giacinto Scelsi
Italian composer Scelsi's work was relatively unknown during his lifetime, but his status as a true giant of 20th Century composition has been growing ever more prominent. These works for viola demonstrate his transcendent aesthetic perfectly. Touching upon elements of minimalism, non-western musical idioms and atonality; his compositions enter a realm of somber beauty all their own.

Click for availability and more informationDuncan the Wonder Dog: Show 1, by Adam Hines
Hines' ambitious 400 page graphic novel may initially appear daunting, but upon reading the first few chapters the reader is transfixed. Detailing a world where animals can speak, their varying relationships with and treatment by humans are explored in depth. Hines' paints a realistic world that uses a dizzying array of layouts to form a visual narrative that never ceases to amaze. The story itself is a philosophical landmine, provoking the reader to question his/her relationship to nature and the world around them. Duncan may well be one of the smartest graphic novels I have ever read and will stay with you long after you read it.

Click for availability and more informationWe Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, by John Maus
Maus has refined his craft as a member of Ariel Pink's collective over the years and his newest disc shows him to be at the pinnacle of his craft. Each track on this album feels like it was culled together from my own memories of the synthpop/postpunk tracks of my youth. This is further exemplified with the album's hazy, dreamlike production, leaving one with a disc that feels oddly familiar yet whose emotions are startlingly relevant.

Click for availability and more informationSomeone Gave Me Religion, by Arnaud Rebotini
Rebotini has always come across a vintage synthesizer fetishist, going so far as to list each piece of equipment used on past recordings. But with his newest release he finally gets his cherished gear to sing. From the opening 13-minute cosmic ambient track onwards, Rebotini references everything from minimal techno to ebm to Chicago house with giddy aplomb.

Click for availability and more informationWhite Material, by Claire Denis
Claire Denis latest film to explore her youth in Africa is a stunning portrait of a stubborn French woman's quest to retain her family's coffee plantation amidst the violent collapse of African imperialism. Isabelle Huppert plays the woman with stoic intensity, trying her best to go about life ignorant of the chaos around her. She unwittingly becomes the savior of a wounded rebel army leader as warring factions within the country run rampant. The film's portrayal of Africa is both haunting and beautiful and carries an intense sense of foreboding till it's bitter ending. The rest of the cast are also superb including Christophe Lambert (Highlander!)and Isaach de Bankolé. 

Click for availability and more informationHuman Centipede: The First Sequence, by Directed by Tom Six
A real guilty pleasure with this one, a horror movie that manages to disgust and humor simultaneously. Not for the faint of heart.


From the Cos Cob Branch Staff

Click for availability and more informationThe Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
Highly enjoyable with several coming of age stories. It's set in a small college community in Wisconsin with a background of baseball as a metaphor for life. 

Click for availability and more informationThe Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
A moving story of a young woman whose gift for understand the meaning of flowers helps her overcome her past and learn how to love. A very powerful, beautiful work.


Click for availability and more informationState of Wonder, by Ann Patchett
I felt transported by this book to the jungles of the Amazon. Fascinating and unpredictable and a unique read.


Click for availability and more informationThe Tiger's Wife, by Tea Obreht
A young doctor in a small Balkan country find secrets abound after the war. A mix of myth and reality. It's a beautifully written tale with several stories unfolding.

Kate H.

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