Top 5 Recent Bestsellers At The Library

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Since the Union library is an academic one, the books we have on our shelves are primarily for research and school-related purposes. However, we also have some “fun reads” and bestsellers in our Recreational Reading section (which is on the 2nd floor near the DVDs). Several of these bestsellers have been popular here at the library, appearing on our most checked out items list for several months now. You can find brief descriptions of them, as well as links to where they are located in the library, below:

 

Educated by Tara Westover

Publication Year: 2018

Genre: Memoir

Description: Tara Westover describes her upbringing in an isolated, survivalist family who did not trust conventional schools or medicine. Westover eventually went to college and learned about the world beyond her mountains.

 

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Publication Year: 2018

Genre: Mystery

Description: The “Marsh Girl” is a local legend in Barkley Cove, North Carolina. This mysterious figure emerges in the midst of local crime.

 

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Publication Year: 2019

Genre: Historical fiction

Description: Two boys struggle to survive the horrors of their juvenile reformatory and racism in the Jim Crow era.

 

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Publication Year: 2018

Genre: Historical fiction

Description: A family moves to Alaska in the 1970’s and deals with harsh wilderness, PTSD, and complicated relationships.

 

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Publication Year: 2019

Genre: Dystopian fiction

Description: More than 15 years after The Handmaid’s Tale, the oppressive Gilead regime is still standing- but there are signs that it is beginning to rot from within. (You can read our review of The Testaments here.)

 

 

 

Book Review: “The Testaments” by Margaret Atwood

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Have you ever read a book, gotten to the end, and then thought, “WHAT? What’s going to happen next?” The Handmaid’s Tale will make you do that.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is known as a modern classic. Written in 1985, this novel is about an alternate society, Gilead, that runs an oppressive regime against women. Women are forced into different social classes. Some of the main ones mentioned are:

  • Handmaids (essentially surrogate mothers for Wives who can’t naturally have children)
  • Marthas (serving women)
  • Aunts (ruling women who make sure the others are put in their place)
  • Wives (married and subordinate to husbands, who rule over Gilead)

Without giving too much away, The Handmaid’s Tale ends on an exciting cliffhanger. And for 34 years, there was nothing else written about it.

Until now: enter The Testaments, the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. I think it came as a surprise to most readers when Margaret Atwood announced that there was, at long last, another book in the Handmaid universe. At the time of my writing, The Testaments is currently the top bestselling book in the U.S. I couldn’t wait to read it, so I snatched it up as soon as the library’s copy came in (sorry).

*There are minor spoilers ahead, so be aware.

 

What The Testaments gets right: It’s downright chilling how the global problems in the book echo the ones in real life. I’m sure Atwood did that on purpose, but still. It’s always eerie when a fictional dystopia has a little too much in common with the real world.

The Testaments tells its story with three different narrators: Aunt Lydia, Daisy, and Agnes Jemima. Each woman has played a different part in the system of Gilead- one helped enforce it, one suffered from it, and one lived outside of it. Through their perspectives, we get a more complete picture of the political climate surrounding Gilead. For instance, the other countries don’t like Gilead. There are protests everywhere, the global climate is falling apart, and there’s an Underground Femaleroad that women can use to escape from Gilead- if they’re not caught and punished.

So much of what happens to these women is staggeringly upsetting. In fact, much of their suffering is unique to simply being a woman (such as purposefully being denied feminine products while in captivity), which is something I haven’t read much about in other dystopias. The Testaments is a great reminder to not take the little things in life for granted (or the big things either, like freedom of speech, freedom to own property, and the freedom to vote, which are denied these women).

Even though The Testaments was often hard to read because of the mistreatment of women, I loved this book. I read a review in The Guardian where a reader said that she felt like the book was talking directly to her, and that’s exactly how I felt, too. Margaret Atwood really knows how to pull you in and make you think with her writing. She might make you cry, too- I did.

 

What The Testaments does wrong: The Testaments is more heavy-handed and political than The Handmaid’s Tale, largely due to the different narrators and their positions in society. The narrators in the sequel are more self-aware and have years of perspective to look back on, while Offred from the original book lived more in the moment, which didn’t allow her to think about much more beyond her own strategies to stay alive and undetected. She often thought about her lost past, but it was less in political terms and more personal. We had access to her thoughts and suppressed feelings, and we as readers knew less about the wider scope of things that The Testaments gives us.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with The Testaments being more obvious in tone- in fact, many might say that this kind of tone is needed right now- but I missed the personal horror of The Handmaid’s Tale. The Handmaid’s Tale had so many subtle moments that made me double take and reread, as well as blatant anti-woman tactics. The Testaments stays fairly blatant throughout the whole book- which, again, could be due to the fact that we as readers already know all about about Gilead and its evil because of The Handmaid’s Tale. The Testaments doesn’t have to be subtle because, as the saying goes, The Handmaid’s Tale walked so The Testaments could run.

 

Who should read The Testaments: Older teenagers and adults, especially people who have read and enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale.

 

Who shouldn’t read The Testaments: Younger teenagers and children. It’s too mature in theme for them to fully understand.

 

Content note & mild spoilers: There are sad (but fairly brief) recollections of sexual and physical abuse in The Testaments, as well as some language. This is a heavy book.

 

 

 

 

Library Staff Picks: What’s On Your “To Be Read” List?

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For some people, the “to be read” (or TBR) pile of books never stops growing. But what if you’re still looking for something else to read? The library staff are happy to share the books that they are planning to read next- and who knows, you may see some book reviews of these in the future, once we’ve read them!

 

TBR Lists Below

Olivia Chin, Circulation Manager:

  • Next up for Olivia Chin is the fourth book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Feast For Crows. She is hoping to finish the current books in the series this fall; she’s also hoping that George R.R. Martin finishes writing the last two books!
  • Olivia is also looking forward to reading the true-crime biography Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn (which she’s ordered through Interlibrary Loan).
  • And she’d like to finally read the thriller Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

 

Amber Wessies, Instruction Librarian:

 

Matthew Beyer, Library Associate:

 

Shelby Lucius, Student Assistant:

 

 

Book Review: “Shoji Hamada: A Potter’s Way And Work” by Susan Peterson

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In my opinion, I find that sometimes the most interesting biographies are the ones whose people aren’t too well known. Oftentimes household names have so much in the way of lore and common knowledge that, in many ways, we already know some of the best parts. This trend continued in the book Shoji Hamada: A Potter’s Way and Work. For those who don’t know, Shoji Hamada is a former living national treasure in Japan due to his work as a folk potter. He has become internationally renowned in the ceramics community, his works becoming synonymous with Japanese mingei (民芸 meaning “folk arts” or “art of the people”) ceramics. Having spent four months with Hamada, author Susan Peterson has written a charming glimpse into his life, home, and work.

The book is based in the small town of Mashiko located in Tochigi prefecture and about a two-hour drive north of Tokyo. As the book was written in 1970, the context is of what Mashiko was like during Hamada’s time. However, I had the privilege of visiting Mashiko during this past spring break, and it was wonderful to compare with what was written during Hamada’s life with how the town has changed throughout the years since Hamada’s fame. Shoji Hamda’s house has been turned into a museum of his life and work, and it was fascinating to compare the images from the book’s photo galleries to the real thing. After reading the book, I can’t imagine not wanting to visit.

This book covers anything and everything one might want to know about the potter and his work, but even so, it is still an incredibly easy read. The language is accessible to people who have not studied pottery, but also enriching for those that have. The book covers everything from his workflow, techniques, glazes, kilns, family life, and even the way Hamada himself thinks. The book is not a detached biography written by historians years after the death of the person, but rather a living telling complete with the thoughts and actions recorded in these first-person accounts. The photo albums scattered throughout the book are both an enjoyable and invaluable addition to the biography, as seeing the work for oneself is both contextually important as well as very interesting to see the stages of his work and life. If you are at all a fan of the arts, even just a little, I would definitely recommend this book.

 

*written by Ruth Duncan

Spotlight On Library Displays

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Did you know that the library creates displays to showcase our collection? Each month, a new display theme goes up on the first-floor bookcase near the stairs. Monthly themes include:

  • Star Wars
  • Harry Potter
  • Summer Reading
  • STEM
  • Historical Fiction

and more!

 

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We also have books on display in the Family Room. These include children’s books and young adult books. Pictured below is our “Universe of Stories” display!

universe display

 

All of the books, audiobooks, and DVDs on display are available for checkout. Just take the item you want to the Circulation Desk and they will check it out for you.

Featured eBook: “Ethics In Health Administration”

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Identifying changes in the United States’ health care structures, Ethics In Health Administration by Eileen E. Morrison seeks to educate healthcare professionals on using ethics in the workplace. The library has access to the fourth edition of this manual, which has additional chapters that the previous editions did not.

Ethics In Health Administration talks about generational challenges, the emerging senior service market, insurance issues, and examples of ethical dilemmas. It’s a great resource for decision makers in the healthcare field as well as for new doctors and nurses as they prepare for their roles. Each chapter defines key terms to make the reading easier as well.

You can access Ethics In Health Administration by searching for it on the library website and clicking its eBook link. If you are off campus, you will need to sign in with your Union credentials to view the eBook.

 

How To Find New Books At The Library

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Want to see the latest books that we’ve purchased? We have 3 different ways that you can see new books at the library!

 

The New Books Shelf

Did you know that we have a special section for the new books we acquire? The New Books Section is located on the second floor of the Logos. The shelves include selected titles on display, and each new book is marked with a green sticker on its spine indicating the date of its acquisition. The New Books Section makes it easier to browse the latest books by shelving them in a group together for a time.

 

The New Books List (On Our Website)

We keep an updated list of our new books and movies on our website. You can find the link to this list under the “Quick Links” section of the website’s homepage; or just click here!

 

Scrolling New eBooks

The new eBooks that we’ve purchased can be seen on the library website’s homepage. They automatically scroll across the screen just below the library chat box.

 

If you need any help finding the new books, ask a library team member at our Circulation Desk or our Research Desk!

Moments In History: August 9th, 1974

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Matthew Beyer has begun a “Moments In History” series to raise awareness of important historical events. Each post will also have book recommendations about the moment in history, using our extensive history collection in the library.

 

August 9th, 1974

Resignation Of U. S. President Richard Nixon

 

The 37th President of the U.S. presided over a time period of great upheaval and uncertainty for the nation. His personal and political accomplishments were eventually dwarfed by his spectacular downfall, which to this day has fueled the public’s skepticism of blind trust in the executive office of government.

President Nixon was quite popular early on due to his foreign policy differences in relation to his predecessors. Diplomatic negotiations in dealing with the Soviet Union and communist China helped ease tensions during the Cold War. Nixon proved to be very popular in domestic politics and oversaw the Apollo 11 mission.  Yet all of these achievements could not save him from involvement in the infamous Watergate scandal in the summer of 1972.  Five men were caught burglarizing and attempting to wiretap the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. The President’s involvement and the attempted cover up of the incident would lead to extensive congressional investigations, culminating in the release of taped conversations that implicated President Nixon and others in a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The release of the “Smoking Gun” tape (revealed by the FBI) clearly showed Nixon’s involvement, and, as a result, articles for impeachment began in the House of Representatives. President Richard Nixon decided to resign from office rather than face impeachment, and on August 8th, 1974, he gave a televised farewell address to the American people. The next day, the president and his wife proceeded to the White House lawn, boarded the Presidential helicopter, and flew away. His vice president Gerald Ford would go on to succeed him and issue an official presidential pardon of all crimes. Nixon would continue in his private life to be a pariah in American politics.

Today marks the 45th anniversary of that historic day.

If you found this post interesting and would like to learn more on this topic, the Union University Library offers numerous books and films related to the subject:

 

 

 

Featured Book: “Unexpected Art”

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What would you do if, one day, you saw a giant rubber duck on top of the Bowld? Would you assume that it’s an art project?

The book Unexpected Art shows us beautiful photographs of art installations all over the world. These installations can be surprising and are often a part of the local landscape. The artists want their art to be seen and enjoyed by the people around them, and so they have brought their art to the public space.

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Unexpected Art showcases work by Adel Abdessemed, Amanda Browder, Nick Cave, Myoung Ho Lee, Cornelia Konrads, and many more. You’ll see all kinds of creative pieces, from wallpapered dumpsters to aluminum landscapes to giant rubber duckies. This book is fun to flip through, but you can also read about how each artist made their art and why they made it that way.

You can check out Unexpected Art from the library!

Top 5 Books About Reading & Libraries

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You know you’re a dedicated reader when you start reading about- you guessed it- reading itself! There are a surprising amount of books that talk about the joys of reading, how books are made, and libraries in general. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorites, which are all available here in our library.

 

On Reading Well: Finding The Good Life Through Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior

Prior explores how the great books in history can teach us character lessons. On Reading Well will give you nostalgia for the literary canon as well as compelling arguments for why you spend so much time reading!

 

A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel

At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book – that string of confused, alien ciphers – shivered into meaning. Words spoke to you, gave up their secrets; at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader. Noted essayist Alberto Manguel moves from this essential moment to explore the 6000-year-old conversation between words and that magician without whom the book would be a lifeless object: the reader.

 

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

This true crime book chronicles the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) fire, and its aftermath, to showcase the crucial role that libraries play in our lives.

 

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The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

Based on the true story of Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.

 

Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading by Maureen Corrigan

A lifelong book lover and NPR book critic speaks about the authors and the books that have played a key role in her life, exploring how the magic of reading has helped her understand herself and reflecting on how a love of literature can help transform our lives.