Christina, Lakewood Library

Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley

Ptolemy is 91, a recluse living alone and falling fast into dementia when this story begins.  Confused and scared, his apartment is filled with filth and bugs.  A family friend, Robyn Small, 17 years old, comes into his life and both find needed friendships.  Robyn helps Ptolemy clean up his apartment.  A reinvigorated Ptolemy volunteers for an experimental medical program that will restore his mind, but at hazardous cost: he won't live to see 92.  Mosley's depiction of the indignities of old age is heartbreaking and Ptolemy carries off these indignities with grace and decency.

Christina, Lakewood Library

Exciting and challenging and somewhat dismaying, change is a part of our lives.  It is a part of home life, work life and social life.  And although we know if we did not experience change, life would become stagnant and boring, it is still hard to accept at times. We know the procedures, how to get things done and then something different is thrown in that we have to adapt to and add to our mental databank. So, OK, let’s embrace change and make it work.  Here are a few titles that may help with the transitions.

Who Moved my Cheese by Spencer Johnson

Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

Manifesting Change: It Couldn't Be Easier by Mike Dooley

Ros, Evergreen Library

My Ideal Bookshelf, edited by Thessaly La Force, art by Jane Mount

My Ideal Bookshelf is a wonderful book to browse for reading ideas. Over one hundred “leading cultural figures”—writers, artists, musicians and such—talk about what they consider the books that matter to them most. Each one page essay is accompanied by an artist’s rendition of their bookshelf. Here we can see that writer David Sedaris is a big fan of Tobias Wolff books because “every story is a manual on how to be a good person.” Tony Hawke, the athlete, loves stories about overcoming adversity. A Child Called “It” by David Pelzer and Endurance by Alfred Lansing offer lessons Tony identifies with. James Patterson gives top billing to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude, saying it “drove me into writing thrillers…I realized I couldn’t do anything at his level.”  Other contributors include Robert Crais, James Franco, Michael Chabon, Jennifer Egan, William Wegman, Malcolm Gladwell, Nancy Pearl. In telling us their favorites, we get insights into their lives—plus intriguing lists of titles, both popular and obscure, for our own reading pleasure. The book leaves us finally, with the question, what would be on our own Ideal Bookshelf?

Katie, Arvada Library

HHhH by Laurent Binet 

A New York Times notable book for 2012, HHhH is a fast paced, thrilling and historically accurate novelization of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.  Known as "The Butcher of Prague," Heydrich was feared for his cruelty (he helped mastermind the final solution) which, combined with his Aryan features made him a rising star in Hitler's cabinet.  Many historians believe he would have eventually succeeded Hitler as Führer.  HHhH also tells the story of the Czech and Slovak fighters who trained for and successfully completed the mission in May 1942.  These two stories take turns amongst the author's personal musings about the art of writing historical fiction.  The short but meaty chapters keep the reader entertained and eager for each successive page.


Marie, Columbine Library

The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy

I’m sad that Maeve Binchy passed away in 2012.  She has so many wonderful books and The Glass Lake is now one of my favorites.  Set in 1950’s Ireland and London, The Glass Lake is classic Binchy.  Kit McMahon’s mother, Helen, didn’t belong in the small Irish hamlet of Lough Glass. The troubled woman walked night after night along the shores of the serene lake. Then, when Kit was only 12, her mother disappeared one night. The mystery surrounding what happened to Helen will haunt the girl for years.

Carol, Arvada Library

As a military mom myself, I understand just how hard it is to have a family member in danger.  We worry everyday about their hardships, the mental and physical stress they are under, as well as knowing someone is trying to kill your loved one.  That by itself is very hard to wrap your head around.  When you hear on the news that we have lost more service members, you hold your breath for days waiting to hear from your soldier.  The stress is almost overwhelming.  Then, if you are lucky, they come home, maybe injured, but most certainly changed, but still they come home. They and their families must weather the changes and adjust to the lives they left behind and find a new way forward together.

In honor of Military Appreciation Month here are some nonfiction titles that show the hardships our service members and their families endure.

Voices From the Front: Letters Home from America's Military Family, letters collected, edited, and with a foreword by Frank Schaeffer

Outside the wire : American soldiers' voices from Afghanistan, edited by Christine Dumaine Leche; foreword by Brian Turner  

Once a warrior-always a warrior: navigating the transition from combat to home-- including combat stress, PTSD, and mTBI by Charles W. Hoge

The military father: a hands-on guide for deployed dads by Armin A. Brott  

I miss you! : a military kid's book about deployment by Beth Andrews

Witness: G.I. homecoming, (DVD) produced by Siskel Jacobs Productions for National Geographic Channels


Veronica, Columbine Library

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

A teen girl rescues a young orphaned bonobo in the Democratic Republic of Congo, saving him from a cruel future.  When her world explodes because of a rebel attack on her compound, Sophie saves herself by living and traveling with the bonobos.  This endangered species is related to chimpanzees and shares 99% of humans’ DNA!  The story is gripping, moving, poignant, and one you’ll hate to put down.

Christina, Lakewood Library

A friend challenged me to participate.  A 28-day regime of eating that would cleanse my body of toxins and all that bad stuff we in the USA accumulate by eating the foods mostly available.  I checked the menus and suggestions.  Included were lots of vegetables and fruit, lots of beans and a fun variety of grains – brown rice, quinoa, faro, whole grain pasta and even a little fish and chicken.  Sprouted or whole wheat breads were fine in moderation and spreads like hummus were suggested.   OK – I can do this, I thought.  Then the clincher – no dairy.  You mean no yogurt?  No cheese?  No ice cream?  What about my morning smoothie with yogurt and fruit?  And cheese on pizza?   The alternatives are non-dairy yogurts and milks like soy, coconut and almond.  OK – I can still do this and after all – it is only 28 days.  Little did I know that after the first day I would feel better, sleep better, have no digestive issues and actually come to enjoy my smoothie with soy yogurt, fruit and bunches of kale?  Are you wondering what is left to eat?  Here are some suggestions to get you started on a dairy-free diet.

Complete idiot’s guide to dairy-free eating by Scott Sicherer

Go dairy free: the guide and cookbook for milk allergies, lactose intolerance, and casein-free living by Alisa Marie Fleming

Living dairy-free for dummies by Suzanne Havala Hobbs

The Divvies bakery cookbook: no nuts, no eggs, no dairy, just delicious! by Lori Sandler

Bonnie, Lakewood Library

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Eugenides explores the dynamics of three Brown students as they transition from college to post-college life. The characters form a triangle: Madeleine, who usually avoids fellow students with ‘problems,’ falls in love with brilliant but troubled Leonard Bankhead. In the meantime, she maintains a sometimes flirtatious friendship with Mitchell Grammaticus, a student who heads to India seeking self-discovery on a spiritual path. Set in the Reagan era - 1982 - Eugenides crafts an entertaining, thoughtful, and intelligent novel which analyzes the most complicated of human emotions: love. 

Ros, Evergreen Library

Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

Lou Arrendale, an autistic man, is the narrator. He lives in a near future where there are very few people with autism left. Cures exist for anyone diagnosed in childhood, but Lou was too old to be helped when the solution came along. He has created a life for himself with friends and a job and a car, but always there is the struggle to be normal. It is a quiet, constrained existence that we come to know well through Lou’s description of his days and routines. It has its advantages too—Lou has special abilities to recognize patterns, and these he applies to his job in a pharmaceutical firm. He enjoys listening to classical music in ways not open to most people. All in all, he has mostly come to terms with autism and his life.

Into this situation an experimental treatment presents itself. Lou’s supervisor wants him, and all the other autistics in his work unit, to undergo a surgery that may “fix” their brains—or leave them mentally worse off than before. Their jobs are threatened. But even if the treatment works, how would it affect Lou and the life he has built? What would it do to his personality, his essence? Would it change his unique abilities? Would it alter his feelings for a woman who he has only recently come to love?

Elizabeth Moon has created a moving, thoughtful, complex tale. Speed of Dark draws us completely into the world of Lou Arrendale, a unique and fascinating hero. As the mother of an autistic child, she brings street cred to her portrayal of the man, and makes us care.


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