Monday, January 16, 2017


January is a perfect time to make resolutions that not only refresh your spirit but also your surroundings. Whether you’re interested in refining your culinary skills or getting the most out of your smart devices, this list of new adult nonfiction books will help inspire you to make small enhancements to your everyday life. Gain the confidence you need to tackle simple DIY projects around the home or office with one of these helpful new titles available at Peter White Public Library.

Home Automation for Dummies (2015) by Dwight Spivey
You can buy just about any home appliance today and control it from your smartphone or tablet. Most of these smart devices are easy to set up and use but some may be tricky to navigate, especially if you’re new to the idea of home automation. Home Automation for Dummies is a great reference book for those just beginning to explore the possible applications of this new phenomenon. With this book you’ll learn how to control your home security devices while out of the house, adjust your thermostat remotely, and even how to automate your lawn care duties all from one platform.
New Adult Nonfiction 643.6 SP

Home Decor Cheat Sheets (2016) by Jessica Probus
If you need a crash course in Design 101, this is the book for you. Home Decor Cheat Sheets provides over 300 tips and tricks to help make your living spaces more livable. Learn the rules of interior design with this easy to follow guidebook. Vital concepts in design are made assessable with the aid of simple illustrations and brief descriptions. Seriously, this book explains all of the need-to-know stuff for stylish living. Looking to add a new piece of furniture to a room? This book will help you identify different styles of furniture and then help you pair them! Not sure how best to arrange art work or picture frames on a wall? Don’t worry, Home Decor Cheat Sheets has that covered too.
New Adult Nonfiction 645 PR

The Useful Book (2016) by David & Sharon Bowers
Divided into two sections, Home Ec and Shop, The Useful Book will help you become a master of all trades. This encyclopedia of DIY has over 200 easy to learn life skills, from how to brew a cup of tea to how to plaster a wall! It’s like a survival guide for real life. The pages are filled with step-by-step instructions, practical advice for DIY projects, and solutions to common problems.
New Adult Nonfiction 640 BO

Taste & Technique (2016) by Naomi Pomeroy
Taste and Technique is more than just a cookbook which lists ingredients and instructions; it’s a culinary manual that focuses on technique so that you can prepare dazzling meals that feed the body and spirit, again and again. This is a cookbook for the home cook who is looking to dramatically enhance their kitchen prowess. Each recipe and technique is plainly explained and feels as though you are receiving private in-home instruction from a world-class chef.  Taste and Technique will inspire your confidence and have you creating 5-star meals from the very first recipe.
New Adult Nonfiction 641.5 PO

Table Manners (2016) by Jeremiah Tower
In Table Manners, Jeremiah Tower has created a witty and unstuffy book on a rather stuffy subject; how to behave at the dining table and why it matters. Tower’s book is a sensible back-to-basics guide that is chock-full of practical advice for any dining experience, whether you are the host or a guest. Bone up on how to set a table, serve a meal, or simply gain confidence in navigating dinner conversations. Because Tower also addresses topics such as using social media and technology at the table, Table Manners is a wonderful book on etiquette for a modern world.
New Adult Nonfiction 395.54 TO

--Dominic M. Davis, Administrative Assistant

Monday, January 9, 2017

Books for Self-Improvement

The New Year is a time when many people try to better themselves, and I am no exception. I also am a sucker for self-help books, even though many are heavy on rhetoric and light on practical advice. The following books have all helped me—although some are not necessarily found in the self-help section. Whether you resolve to become healthier, work harder, or develop your interpersonal skills, the Peter White Public Library has something for you!

Year of No Sugar (2014) by Eve Schaub
If you, like me, have just gotten off a Christmas cookie binge, here is a timely memoir about a family who decided to give up added sugar for an entire year. This book describes sugar’s effect on the body, explains its ubiquity in the food we eat, and makes a compelling case to monitor our consumption of it—while remaining primarily a personal story about a family. Schaub is naturally funny, and the fact that she is a blogger rather than a scientist means that the book never descends into esoteric jargon. She does not sugar-coat her year spent baking her own bread and turning down free cookies, but she at least makes her sacrifices seem worthwhile. The memoir also contains recipes she makes throughout her year (both sugar-free and sugar-laden ones, in case you finish it and want to indulge anyway).

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (2016) by Angela Duckworth
Whether you endeavor to work harder or instill this virtue in your children, you might want to listen to Angela Duckworth. She was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for her research studying grit, a trait she defines as a blend of passion and motivation. Duckworth sought to dispel the myth that genius is inborn, and she instead observed people who mastered skills over long periods of time, even if they started with very little talent. She studied subjects’ behavioral habits as well as environmental factors that facilitated their success. This book is a discussion of her findings, dissecting what it means to “work hard” and detailing exactly which kinds of work foster improvement the most. Duckworth combines research with anecdotes about everyone from West Point cadets to successful comedians.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (2015) by Elizabeth Gilbert
I was initially skeptical about reading a book about creative arts with the word “magic” in the title. And sure enough, there’s a lot of discussion of ethereal muses in this book. But Gilbert is also a workhorse, and she will teach you new ways to conceptualize your creative endeavors—namely, to just sit down and work on them. Gilbert believes we’re all meant to be creative, and her book guides readers through all the fears that come with creating—including fear of not being able to follow up a huge success, which Gilbert experienced after writing Eat Pray Love. Big Magic alternates between advice and personal stories, and while it gets a bit spiritual at times, it is grounded in the wisdom that has made Gilbert a bestseller many times over.

Between the World and Me (2015) by Ta-Nehisi Coates
If you seek to understand others amidst our current national discord, read this book. It has won several awards, including the National Book Award. The book takes the form of a letter that Coates wrote to his fifteen-year-old son following the verdict of the Michael Brown shooting. At only 176 pages, it is a poignant portrayal of Coates’s experience as a black man in America. Coates defines and condemns racism with unprecedented precision, going far beyond the platitudes that permeate current discourse. Between the World and Me is the walk in another person’s shoes that we’ve needed. And to top it all off, it’s full of downright beautiful writing; in fact, it’s my favorite book I read last year.

Tiny Beautiful Things (2012) by Cheryl Strayed
This book is for anyone who wants to, simply put, become a better person. It is a collection of articles from an advice column titled “Dear Sugar,” which Cheryl Strayed of Wild fame initially wrote for The Rumpus. She advises on everything from high school drama to the crippling grief following the loss of loved ones, often relating others’ problems to her own chaotic and tragic life experiences. Letter writers sometimes confess horrible secrets, but Strayed never becomes judgmental, nor does she restrict herself to advice-column conventions. Her replies are sometimes ten pages long, and her ability to segue from lengthy anecdotes into pointed messages is admirable. Ultimately, even when she gives tough love, she never forgets that on the other end of each letter is a real person. Reading the book can help you realize how much worse it could be, as well as how to persevere even if it does get worse.

--Ben Kinney, Youth Services Assistant

Monday, January 2, 2017

Books set in Michigan

The past two years have seen the publication of a variety of excellent books set in Michigan. Here are five of my new favorites.

Captain Francesco Verdi, an Italian officer captured in North Africa by Allied forces, is sent to a POW camp in AuTrain in John Smolens’ latest novel, Wolf’s Mouth. The POWs are terrorized by Vogel, the senior POW and a ruthless Nazi. Once Vogel threatens Verdi’s life, Verdi escapes from the camp and hides out in Munising. Avoiding the police, Verdi and Chiara, a young Italian American woman Frank had met on earlier authorized trips into town, escape to Detroit where they marry and begin a new life as Frank and Claire Green. Some years later, an INS agent finds Green and informs him that Vogel is tracking down and killing former POWs who refused to conform to Nazi ideology at the camp. The agent wants to use Green to find Vogel so the American government can bring Vogel to justice for his war crimes. There is eventual justice but it happens on Verdi and Vogel’s terms. Turns out, about 1,000 German POWs lived at five camps in the U.P. Five thousand more survived the war in Lower Michigan. For more information, watch The Enemy in our Midst, John Pepin and Jackie Chandonnet’s 2010 film about WWII POW camps in the U.P.

Garden for the Blind by Kelly Fordon is a series of linked short stories set in and about Detroit and its suburbs between 1974 and 2012. In the first story, young, wealthy Alice witnesses an accident that kills her sister. Left mostly to herself, Alice becomes friends with her neighbor and troubled classmate Mike. Together they blame an unpopular classmate for something Mike has done. The stories follow Alice and Mike as they graduate and move through adulthood into middle age as they face or ignore the consequences of their youthful acts. Family members, friends, and other local people weave paths through the stories. These include a veteran who sleepwalks, a Buddhist monk, and a woman who has devoted her life to teaching children who are blind. It is she who builds the titular garden in the last, breathtaking story.

Detroit Hustle is an upbeat chronicle by journalist Amy Haimerl that recounts her and her husband Karl (and their dogs)’s move from their increasingly expensive place in Brooklyn to a large abandoned house in Detroit. Haimerl draws on her early life in Denver where she inherited a can-do spirit from her hard-working dad. This attitude fortifies the young couple who buy cheap but find that loving restoration (including plumbing, heat and electricity) costs so much more than they imagined. What’s most fascinating in this memoir is Haimerl’s discussion of the realities of living and working in Detroit with its stressed economy and politics.  She questions their role as middle class homeowners in terms of gentrification alongside the many residents who stuck it out in Detroit over the past decades. She points to the need for Detroit’s lending institutions to redefine investment requirements. Hard work and believing in Detroit must count in the process. She speaks about living in and accepting Detroit for what it is without trying to make it into what a newcomer left behind. Haimerl and Karl are stronger for the challenges they found in both their new home and their new neighborhood and community.

Reading a description (other than mine, of course) of Travis Mulhauser’s debut novel, Sweetgirl, might cause you pass it by. If you did, though, you’d miss a quirky, satisfying quick read. Sixteen-year-old Percy sets out to find her mother whom she assumes is strung out on meth, probably in Shelton Potter’s cabin. When she enters the cabin, she doesn’t find her mother. She does find a drugged and sleeping Shelden and his equally unresponsive girlfriend. Hearing a cry, Percy hurries upstairs and discovers a baby girl, alone, snow falling from an open window onto her crib. Impulsively, Percy grabs the sweet girl, planning to drive back to town and drop her off at the local hospital. She didn’t count on her truck getting stuck in the snow, the tragedy that befalls her friend Portis as he helps her race through the blizzard, first in his truck and then by foot, and the violence brought about by Shelden’s armed friends who want the baby back. Neglected children, drugs, addiction, sounds bleak? Yet the story is also about courage, family, survival, and fierce love. It even has its humor. I look forward to Mulhauser’s future books.

Feather Brained by Bob Tarte is summarized succinctly by its subtitle: My Bumbling Quest to Become a Birder and Find a Rare Bird on My Own. However, the subtitle can’t express the charm, humor, and encouragement readers find in its pages. Tarte is not a nature person. I don’t think he likes getting his shoes dirty. At least not until his first and unexpected sighting of a rose-breasted grosbeak. Totally caught in the bird’s spell, Tart, reluctantly, starts to develop a relationship with the outdoors in general, and to birding in particular. His book charts Tarte’s truly bumbling progress getting to know birds and sticking with it when the weather turns wet or wintry, especially when the chase for a particular bird takes him away from home. (He doesn’t like to drive far either.) Along the way, Tarte meets birders and those who care for orphaned or injured birds. Tarte and his wife Linda live in Lowell with ducks, turkeys, parrots and wild birds they rehabilitate. I watch the trees and rivers for birds much more than I did before reading Tarte’s joyful book.

The staff of Peter White Public Library wish you a happy New Year filled with all the joy, strength, and encouragement found in libraries full to the brim with books, music, films and adventure.

--Cathy Sullivan Seblonka, Collection Development/Reference Librarian

Monday, December 26, 2016

New Children's Books

Looking for something fun to read over Winter Break? The new book shelf at the Peter White Public Library is filled with adventures, journeys, a monster or two and compelling non-fiction to snuggle up and enjoy in the next few days.  Check out Talking Leaves, Joseph Bruchac’s fictionalized tale about a Cherokee man who created the first Cherokee Syllabary in the days before the civil war and Where, Oh Where is Rosie’s Chick a new picture book by award-winning author and illustrator Pat Hutchins.

These other titles are also sure to please:  

Quit Calling Me a Monster by Jory John turns stereotypes on their ear in a fun, yet effective way. The monster in this book recalls all the times he’s been called a “monster”, comparing it to a name that represents something dark, menacing and well monsterish. But he contends that he’s in his own space – the closet, under the bed -  minding his business when the name calling happens and without any good reason. What would he rather be called? His name of course, Floyd Peterson. This book will start conversations about the labels we put on ourselves and others, helping kids understand that those names carry weight.

In Bridge to the Wild, author Caitlin O’Connell’s fascination with animals will appeal to young readers who want to know more about well-known zoo species such as gorillas and elephants; and less well known, such as the Ground Hornbill. Filled with color photographs and tips on how readers can be animal scientists in their own communities, O’Connell writes about the animals she meets on a four day behind the scenes trip to Zoo Atlanta. O’Connell, who has studied wild elephants for over two decades, offers a picture of intelligent creatures whom she hopes readers will learn to understand better.

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson, is a story of hope and strength. Yeboah, bicycled across Ghana in 2001 with the King’s blessing and with one good foot. Quite an accomplishment from the teen considered a curse by most people in his village, including his father who left after Yeboah was born. While society expected Yeboah to beg to to meet his daily needs, his mother encouraged him to choose a different path. After losing her as a teenager, Yeboah made plans for the cross-country bike trip.

Life Cycle of a Honey Bee by Grace Jones is a short, simple and of course sweet, honey filled book that explains the life cycle of one of nature’s hardest working animals for very young readers. Appealing photos magnify bees in every phase from egg to, larvae to workers and drones. Easy to read text makes this an accessible option for students working on school reports. Engaging facts might inspire new apiarists to start their own hives next spring.

The Thing About Leftovers by C.C. Payne is a great middle-school story about a 12-year old girl who does not feel like she fits anywhere, school or home. A child of divorce, Fizzy’s parents are both in new relationships and her father’s new wife is expecting a baby. Her Aunt Liz is the only one who seems to remember she exists, and she offers fun suggestions to her niece on how to cope with the changes through cooking. Fizzy decides to enter the Southern Living cook off to prove to her parents and herself that she is worth noticing.

A face not even a mother could love. That is the baby described in Ugly by Robert Hoge, whose mother refused to see him for the first days of his life, leaving the hospital without him. In this raw biography Hoge shares an honest description of the world’s reaction to his misshapen face, from the early days filled with surgeries to remove the tumor and reset his eyes, to his reactions to the stares and comments. His mother emerges from her stunned state to become his fierce ally and protector as Robert navigates boyhood, then puberty. Audiences will cheer out loud in the last chapter as Hoge grapples with the decision to undergo another life-altering surgery. He wishes for a role model, someone whose physical appearance doesn’t deter them from living life.
And now he’s provided that for kids.

-Jenifer Kilpela, Youth Services