Top 5 Novels About Animals

doggies

Many children spend time reading about their favorite animals while growing up. Books about animals, particularly fictional stories, can be both inspiring and heart-wrenching. This list compiles several tried-and-true classic novels about different kinds of animals. Both middle-grade children and adults may enjoy these books (although some children may need to grow up more before tackling Watership Down).

*Book descriptions provided by the publishers, c/o the library catalog

 

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford

A Siamese cat, an old bull terrier, and a young Labrador retriever travel together 250 miles through the Canadian wilderness to find their family.

 

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

Paul and his sister Maureen’s determination to own a pony from the herd on Chincoteague Island, Virginia, is greatly increased when the Phantom and her colt are among the ponies rounded up for the yearly auction.

 

Watership Down by Richard Wright

Chronicles the adventures of a group of rabbits searching for a safe place to establish a new warren where they can live in peace.

 

It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Neville

The story of a fourteen-year-old New York boy and his relationships with a stray tomcat, an eccentric old woman, a troubled older boy, the first girl with whom he has been friends, and his father.

 

The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo

Rob, who passes the time in his rural Florida community by wood carving, is drawn by his spunky but angry friend Sistine into a plan to free a caged tiger.

 

 

Top 5 Books About Leadership

prexel books

Great leaders aren’t born ready to lead- they learn both from their own experiences and those of other leaders. These 5 leadership books can help you learn about your leadership style, how to manage a team at work, diversity in leadership, and finding motivation. We have several other leadership books available; just search for the term “leadership” in our catalog.

*book descriptions provided by the publisher, c/o the library website

 

Boundaries For Leaders by Dr. Henry Cloud

In Boundaries for Leaders, clinical psychologist and bestselling author Dr. Henry Cloud leverages his expertise of human behavior, neuroscience, and business leadership to explain how the best leaders set boundaries within their organizations- with their teams and with themselves- to improve performance and increase employee and customer satisfaction. In a voice that is motivating and inspiring, Dr. Cloud offers practical advice on how to manage teams, coach direct reports, and instill an organization with strong values and culture.

 

Leadership is an Art by Max De Pree

Provides advice on the “art” of leadership by the CEO of one of Fortune magazine’s ten best managed companies. Read Olivia Chin’s review here.

 

Diversity and Leadership by Jean Lau Chin & Joseph E. Trimble

Although leadership theories have evolved to reflect changing social contexts, they remain silent on issues of equity, diversity, and social justice. Diversity and Leadership offers a new paradigm for examining leadership by bringing together two domains–research on leadership and research on diversity–to challenge existing notions of leadership and move toward a diverse and global view of society and its institutions. This compelling book delivers an approach to leadership that is inclusive, promotes access for diverse leaders, and addresses barriers that narrowly confine our perceptions and expectations of leaders. Redefining leadership as global and diverse, the authors impart new understanding of who our leaders are, the process of communication, exchange between leaders and their members, criteria for selecting, training, and evaluating leaders in the 21st century, and the organizational and societal contexts in which leadership is exercised.

 

How To Be A Positive Leader: Small Actions, Big Impact by Jane E. Dutton & Gretchen M. Spreitzer

This is a book about how to lead people and organizations in ways that unlock their greatness. It offers a potent assembly of ideas about how small actions leaders take can make a difference in changing the trajectory of individuals and organizations, moving them more rapidly and effectively toward being their best. The book is built on a foundation of cutting-edge research and transformational insights from the field of positive organizational scholarship.

 

HBR’s 10 Must Reads On Leadership by Harvard Business Review

Go from being a good manager to being an extraordinary leader. If you read nothing else on leadership, read these 10 articles. We’ve combed through hundreds of Harvard Business Review articles on leadership and selected the most important ones to help you maximize your own and your organization’s performance. This book will inspire you to: motivate others to excel; build your team’s self-confidence; provoke positive change; set direction; encourage smart risk-taking; manage with tough empathy; credit others for your success; increase self-awareness; draw strength from adversity.

 

 

 

Top 5 Books Under 250 Pages

caleb-woods-iobrSsVqp28-unsplash

In our busy and ever-changing world, picking up a book can feel like just one more task on the checklist. If you find yourself in a time crunch, thankfully there are many interesting shorter books that you can read and won’t be stuck on for weeks. The following books are under 250 pages and still pack a literary punch!

*book descriptions provided by the publishers c/o the library website

 

The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis sets out to persuade his audience of the importance and relevance of universal values such as courage and honor in contemporary society.

 

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, the tragic heroine of Toni Morrison’s haunting first novel, grew out of her memory of a girlhood friend who wanted blue eyes. Shunned by the town’s prosperous black families, as well as its white families, Pecola lives with her alcoholic father and embittered, overworked mother in a shabby two-room storefront that reeks of the hopeless destitution that overwhelms their lives.

 

Abracadabra: The Story of Magic Through the Ages by H.P. Newquist

Magic is a word we use to describe something amazing, awe-inspiring, or spectacular. Truly great magic makes us believe in things we know can’t be real. In the hands of the greatest magicians, even a simple card trick can become truly wondrous. Now, in this nonfiction narrative of magic through the ages, HP Newquist explains how the world’s most famous tricks were created.

 

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Kaysen writes of her experiences, augmented by pages from her medical record, in a psychiatric hospital and of the social and emotional assumptions that divide people into “deviant” or “normal.”

 

The Cookcamp by Gary Paulsen

During World War II, a little boy is sent to live with his grandma, a cook in a camp for workers building a road through the wilderness.

 

 

Book Review: “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng

little fires

The library ladies chose Little Fires Everywhere for our third book club pick. This bestselling novel by Celeste Ng debuted in 2017 and has since been adapted as a popular show on Hulu. We have Little Fires Everywhere as a hardback in our Recreational Reading section.

This novel tells the story of an insulated community, Shaker Heights, and what happens when neighbors disagree over the controversial issues of transracial adoption, single parenthood, socioeconomic differences, and unplanned pregnancies.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What Little Fires Everywhere gets right: First off, what a 10/10 book cover. It grabs your attention- especially with that title- but the color scheme is beautiful.

This book tells everyone’s story, from the seemingly random best friend of a main character to the Chinese immigrant who wants her baby back. Author Celeste Ng somehow expertly weaves all of these stories together, connecting the threads between each character and giving a voice to each perspective. You’ll probably find yourself empathizing with each of them at some point in the novel.

What Little Fires Everywhere gets wrong: It gets off to a slow start. I just wasn’t that interested in Shaker Heights or the many characters that were introduced right off the bat.

Once I did get to know the characters, I worried about them. Teenage Pearl was surprisingly sheltered despite her freewheeling upbringing, and I worried that she would get her heart broken. I felt sad for the characters who struggled to become pregnant, and for the ones who did and had to make difficult choices. Little Fires Everywhere was a well-written book, but it was a hard one to read as it seemed like every page introduced a new, emotional, controversial issue where both sides were fairly well-represented.

Who should read Little Fires Everywhere: Readers who want to tackle challenging issues and enjoy reading about different perspectives on the same problem. Readers who enjoy books about families and neighborhoods.

Who shouldn’t read Little Fires Everywhere: Readers looking for a happy, light story or who need a break from controversial issues.

 

Little Fires Everywhere is available in the Recreational Reading section of the library.

Content note: brief sexual scenes, language.

Most book reviews on this blog are written by Olivia Chin and reflect her personal opinions of the books, not the library’s view as a whole.

Book Review: “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi

child

Children of Blood and Bone took the Young Adult book world by storm when it was published in 2018. For one thing, the cover is absolutely exquisite. For another, this is a fantasy book about people of color; diversity can be hard to find in the fantasy genre. Author Tomi Adeyemi uses her background as a Nigerian-American and her studies in West African mythology to create an intricate world with cultures and problems that real-life people can relate to.

This novel introduces us to two pairs of very different brothers and sisters: Zélie and Tzain, the underdogs in a society built on racism and the fear of magic; and Amari and Inan, the princess and prince who have everything but shrink under their cruel father’s abuse. As the four collide, and suppressed magic begins to make a comeback, their cities will never be the same again.

Mild spoilers ahead.

 

What Children of Blood and Bone gets right: I enjoyed reading about the complex, but ultimately loving, brother-sister relationships in this story, as well as each character’s development and growth throughout their journeys. The animals in this book are really cool as well. For example, Zélie has a lionaire (Nailah) whom she and her friends can actually ride like a horse.

Plot-wise, Children of Blood and Bone reminds me of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Zélie is a special girl who can bring magic back into the world, just like Aang is the avatar who can bring balance back to his world. And Zélie has wisdom beyond her years at times; her quote “I won’t let your ignorance silence my pain” gave me chills.

What Children of Blood and Bone gets wrong: There are a lot of rules and regulations about magic that don’t come out until later in the book. It can be difficult to keep up with, and some of it doesn’t fully make sense to me in regards to how it works in the story. And while the action scenes were exciting, they were hard to follow for me. I wasn’t too sure what was going on at times.

Although Zélie was the main character, I actually liked her the least out of the sibling pairs. While she means well and has a good cause, she’s constantly reckless. I wanted to see the story from Tzain’s perspective, as he was probably my favorite character due to his practicality and protectiveness, but we never got that.

Who should read Children of Blood and Bone: Fans of magic, fantasy, heroic stories, and West African mythology.

Who shouldn’t read Children of Blood and Bone: Readers who don’t enjoy fantasy.

 

Children of Blood and Bone is available in our Recreational Reading section. The sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, is also available!

Content note: a brief suggestive scene, violence, racism.

Most book reviews on this blog are written by Olivia Chin and reflect her personal opinions of the books, not the library’s view as a whole.

Top 5 Memoirs At The Library

memoir

Memoirs tell us the personal experiences of other people. They allow us to see how someone else has lived, thought, and learned. The library has several memoirs on our shelves; here are 5 of the best-written and most checked out memoirs. Click the links to see where the books are located in the library.

*Book descriptions are from the publishers, c/o the library catalog

 

Reading Lolita In Tehran: A Memoir In Books by Azar Nafisi

This is the story of Azar Nafisi’s dream and of the nightmare that made it come true. For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Nafisi gathered seven young women at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss forbidden works of Western literature. They were all former students whom she had taught at university. They were unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, but soon they began to open up and to speak more freely, not only about the novels they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments. Nafisi’s account flashes back to the early days of the revolution, when she first started teaching at the University of Tehran amid the swirl or protests and demonstrations. Azar Nafisi’s tale offers a fascinating portrait of the Iran-Iraq war viewed from Tehran and gives us a rare glimpse, from the inside, of women’s lives in revolutionary Iran.

 

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Here, for the first time, Michelle Obama describes the early years of her marriage as she struggles to balance her work and family with her husband’s fast-moving political career. She takes us inside their private debate over whether he should make a run for the presidency and her subsequent role as a popular but oft-criticized figure during his campaign. Narrating with grace, good humor, and uncommon candor, she provides a vivid, behind-the-scenes account of her family’s history-making launch into the global limelight as well as their life inside the White House over eight momentous years–as she comes to know her country and her country comes to know her.

 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and to do it alone.

 

Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit by J.R. Martinez

This book tells the story of an inspirational journey from tragedy to triumph. In 2003, at age nineteen, the author was on a routine patrol in Iraq when the Humvee he was driving hit an antitank mine, resulting in severe injuries and burns. Out of that tragedy came an improbable journey of inspiration, motivation, and dreams come true.

 

Heavy by Kiese Laymon

In this powerful and provocative memoir, Kiese Laymon fearlessly explores what the weight of a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a black body, a black family, and a nation teetering on the brink of moral collapse. Laymon invites us to consider the consequences of living in a country wholly obsessed with progress yet wholly disinterested in the messy work of reckoning with where we’ve been. Read Olivia Chin’s review here.

 

 

Book Review: “Heavy” by Kiese Laymon

heavy

Heavy by Kiese Laymon is the painfully honest story of a Southern black man’s experiences growing up and going to college in Mississippi. This memoir is a quick but emotionally heavy read (as the title aptly suggests).

Mild spoilers ahead.

What Heavy gets right:  This book says everything you’ve never wanted to hear and everything you’ve needed to hear about racism, sexism, addiction, abuse, and hope. Heavy has been the most impactful and deeply sad book that I’ve read in 2020. Right from the beginning of the book, Laymon dives into his personal experiences with painful stories of his childhood. None of it is easy to read about, and yet I couldn’t put this book down because Laymon’s writing was excellent and I wanted to know the messages he was revealing through all of the stories.

In his writing, Laymon is not afraid to explore his own shortcomings (particularly with romantic relationships) and I found his honesty refreshing. Laymon is angry about the racism and abuse he suffers, and he also recognizes the ways in which he personally has failed to avoid falling into the same vices as his mother. Heavy is actually written as a long letter to his mother, who is addressed as “you.” It’s a personal way to talk about the things that have been long buried or brushed over in their lives.

What Heavy gets wrong: Honestly, nothing. I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads. Heavy is probably the most honest memoir I have ever read. As a white woman, I don’t know and won’t experience all of the struggles that Laymon faces, but reading Heavy helped me understand them better and opened my eyes to his perspective.

Who should read Heavy: Readers who want to learn more about black experiences in the United States, and in particular the South, from firsthand accounts.

Who shouldn’t read Heavy: Heavy is best for more mature audiences due to its intense descriptions of physically and emotionally damaging events.

 

Heavy is available at the library in our U.S. history section.

Content note: racism, sexism, abuse, eating disorder, addiction, rape, language.

Most book reviews on this blog are written by Olivia Chin and reflect her personal opinions of the books, not the library’s view as a whole.

Book Review: “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt

secret

 

Donna Tartt is the bestselling author of The Goldfinch, The Little Friend, and The Secret History. Each of these novels involves suspense and intense character studies.

The Secret History is about an eclectic group of college students who find themselves in a lot of trouble as close-kept secrets are revealed.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What The Secret History gets right: Terrible people doing terrible things? Check. Secrets, murder, drugs, and pagan rituals? Check. An engrossing setting, to the point that you feel like you are actually in the book? Check.

Donna Tartt is excellent at drawing you in to the world that she’s created. Right away, you are introduced to a bizarre crime, and the rest of the book has you scrambling to figure out how the story ends up there.

Any book with an unreliable narrator is going to have your brain spinning, but few books do this quite so well as The Secret History. A lot of the book’s events and character development is seen through the eyes of someone who slowly begins to realize that he doesn’t really know that much about anything after all. This allows the reader to piece together the puzzle, and guess what? Some of it is entirely up to your imagination! I guessed several twists accurately throughout the book, but there were a few that weren’t fully explained (such as the characters’ true motivations and feelings).

Reading about Richard, the story’s narrator, and his university experiences in Hampden reminded me of both my own time in college and the college students that I manage at work. I loved seeing the dichotomy between Richard and his friends’ great intellect and their terrible decision-making and lifestyle habits. How can they be so intelligent as to speak to each other in Latin one minute and then try to live in a freezing warehouse in the middle of a Vermont winter the next? Honestly, this dichotomy is pretty realistic for what I recall of myself and my friends in that stage of life.

Richard wanting to be a part of the strange but exotic Greek students group is a relatable feeling. It can be hard to find your place in a new environment; however, you don’t want to pick the wrong group of people that everyone else warns you about (as Richard inevitably does). Henry, Francis, Charles, Camilla, and Bunny are in turns fascinating, terrifying, hilarious, and deeply disturbing people; as Richard gets sucked further and further into their sordid lives, so do we.

In spite of the sometimes flowery prose and the pretentious characters who are spouting Greek one moment and stoned out of their minds the next, I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a testament to Donna Tartt’s writing that she made such unlikable characters and their various crimes so intriguing and their college, despite its obvious flaws, so nostalgic.

What The Secret History gets wrong: Most of the characters in this book are unlikable. It’s kind of like a modern The Great Gatsby in that way- still a great story, but you may get annoyed by how pretentious and selfish the characters are. (Side note: the main character’s favorite book is The Great Gatsby because he identifies with Jay Gatsby, which is hilarious because he is totally a Nick Carraway instead.)

Who should read The Secret History: Readers who enjoy academia, mythology, suspense, crime, and literary writing.

Who shouldn’t read The Secret History: Readers who are looking for a shorter, faster-paced story. It’s easy to get lost in the world of The Secret History, but the plot does take a while to develop. This is a dark story that explores the evil in human nature, so if you’re looking for a light read, don’t pick this one up yet.

 

The Secret History is available in our Recreational Reading section at the library.

Content note: violence; sexual content (most of which happens off-screen); moments of racism, homophobia, and sexism from a few characters; lots of substance abuse; pagan rituals. Reader discretion is advised.

Featured Book: “Complete Guide To Gardening And Landscaping”

garden

Time Life’s Complete Guide to Gardening and Landscaping is a tome. It’s a how-to guide, an encyclopedia, an almanac, and an advice column all rolled into one. Pretty much anything you can think of regarding plants- zoning, irrigation, houseplant care, troubleshooting- is not only written about in detail but illustrated for the reader.

Check out the Complete Guide to Gardening and Landscaping if you want to learn how to:

  • make a garden for the first time
  • properly care for your houseplants
  • start growing vegetables
  • landscape your property
  • fight bugs and other pests that are bothering your plants
  • identify various kinds of flowers, trees, succulents, and more

 

This thorough, comprehensive book is available at the library. Look around the “SB” section for more books on plants, gardening, landscaping, and nature.

Book Review: “Normal People” by Sally Rooney

normal

 

Normal People by Sally Rooney is the bestselling story of the ups and downs of an Irish millennial couple’s relationship. Since its publication in 2018, Normal People has been adapted into a popular TV show on Hulu.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What Normal People gets right: The writing in Normal People is simple, direct, and poignant; I flew through this book because it was easy to read and understand without oversimplifying its subject matter. Likewise, the characters are believable- they have flaws and virtues that constantly pop up alongside each other. Connell worries about what others think and wants to be a “nice” person; yet he is at his best when he allows himself to be vulnerable and to stand up for others. In contrast, Marianne feels different from everyone else and is not afraid to express her opinions, but she is burdened with her abusive family and fear of close relationships.

As someone the same age as the main characters, I found most of their interactions and cultural references relatable (albeit some of their political conversations were specific to  Ireland and I needed to look them up).

What Normal People gets wrong: There’s definitely some moments that will make you cringe. I was genuinely worried about both Connell and Marianne at times. It’s impressive that the book can get such a strong emotional reaction out of its readers, but at the same time, it’s not a fun book to read.

I also wasn’t a fan of the open-ended conclusion. I am usually fine with open endings, but I really thought this book was moving in a clear direction and the plot just didn’t end up there. I expected more personal growth out of the characters than how they were acting on the last few pages.

Who should read Normal People: Readers who enjoy books about relationships, recent history, and mental health awareness.

Who shouldn’t read Normal People: This is a sad one, guys. If you, like me, occasionally like to read something that will make you cringe and maybe even cry, then pick this one up. But if you’d rather read to escape, or if you don’t want to read about abusive situations, just skip this one. Readers who like linear plots and strong conclusions will not like Normal People, either.

 

Normal People is available in the Recreational Reading section at the library.

Content note: suggestive scenes, language, substance abuse, sexual assault, physical and emotional abuse. Reader discretion is advised.