Monday, November 23, 2015


All locations of the Memphis Public Library & Information Center will be closed Thursday, November 26th, AND Friday, November 27th for Thanksgiving. 

Customers have the option of  reserving or renewing books by going to or calling 452-2047. The Library’s website also offers several resources customers can use anytime—24 hours a day—seven days a week.   E-books and downloadable audio books can be checked-out for free; online databases contain searchable newspaper and magazine articles, reference books and more; and blogs and newsletters on everything from fiction bestsellers to travel can be read on the web.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

[Book Review] What Doesn't Kill Her by Carla Norton


Andrea reviews WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER by Carla Norton, (Minotaur Books, 2015)

Still emotionally drained and haunted by her years held captive in Daryl Wayne Flint’s basement, Reeve LeClaire is trying to get away from her persona of “Edgy Reggie.” She has moved away from Washington State to attend Berkeley University in San Francisco. She has made friends with a group of bicyclists, does well in her college classes, and is able to sleep at night knowing Flint is locked up.

Until the fateful day, he isn’t. After careful deliberation and planning with people on the outside, Flint kills the prison barber and manages to escape. Reeve and former FBI agent Milo Bender are obviously the most agitated about Flint. Knowing Flint will attempt to strike again during the upcoming week of Halloween, the two must act quickly.

Ms. Norton takes her readers on another roller coaster ride as she alternates between Reeve and Flint’s points of view.  If you as a reader are ready to sacrifice sleep because you want to see what happens next, this is more than likely what you want to read next!

Andrea King, Poplar-White Station Library

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Monday, November 16, 2015

[Book Review] At Home by Bill Bryson


Marilyn reviews AT HOME: A SHORT HISTORY OF PRIVATE LIFE by Bill Bryson (Doubleday, 2010)
Have you ever questioned why England so powerfully influenced our private lives and where our social customs originated? Have you ever wondered what foods, plants, and building materials the British Empire, which ruled the oceans, brought into our lives? At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson explores the changes in our houses and cities that the British Empire invented or nurtured.  
Bryson, who lives in an English Victorian Parsonage, takes us on a tour of his home. The tour is not a personal tour of a home, but a history of the decorations, furnishings, and the customs of each room. The book is a journey through the history of the ordinary things in our lives that we, many times, take for granted. The reader discovers the forgotten designers, events, and social customs that shape our private lives.
I especially enjoyed the chapters, “The Dining Room” and “The Garden”. Bryson details how our dining customs evolved as new foods came to British tables. The Dining Room came about because guests would wipe their hands on the expensive upholstered furniture.  As a teenager, I wondered where our dining customs came from and how we discovered spices from others lands. This chapter answered many of my questions and allowed me to explore trade routes of the British Empire.
In the chapter entitled “The Garden” I discovered the origins of modern landscaping and the native habitats of many garden plants. I also learned about Fredrick Olmstead, whose sons (The Olmstead Brothers) would design the Memphis Tennessee Park System. Many plants that the British found in their empire would be transported to England and the United States.  Many of these plants now inhabit the parks, lawns, and gardens of Memphis, Tennessee.
At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson is a wonderful source for answers to the origins of our building materials, clothing, customs, food, and furnishings.
Marilyn Umfress, Central Library

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

[Book Review] The Martian by Andy Weir

Fiction/Science Fiction/Fantasy

Joshua reviews THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir (Crown, 2014) 

So I finished The Martian by Andy Weir, which is classified as a Science Fiction, but would almost be better described in some way as Real Science Fiction, or some other such designation.  The book doesn't attempt to create a fictitious "world" or "universe", but rather describes what would seem to be a realistic expedition to Mars that could take place in our time based on current science if costs were not a factor.

I don't read a lot of Sci-Fi (or any, for that matter), but I enjoyed the book, which I wanted to read before seeing the movie adaptation in theaters right now.  The book is basically a Robinson Crusoe story set on Mars, and it was a very gripping story even if you felt certain that the main character, Mark Watney, was likely going to be saved, as you were still fascinated by his efforts to survive until the rescue could take place.

Weir keeps the book funny and light through Watney's sarcasm and wit as he describes in "mission log" format how he came to be left (for dead) on Mars by his crew mates, and the measures he takes to adapt the resources at his disposal to his new mission of survival and rescue.  The book appeals to contemporary readers through Mark's comments on 1970s television, disco music and 20th century mystery novels, which were left behind on some of the computers by his now departed fellow astronauts.  This device allows for some humorous observations that most readers today would understand and laugh at, and also makes the book appear to be set in a time not too far from our own.

Much of the book is comprised of highly detailed descriptions of the steps Watney takes to modify his surroundings to stay alive for an extended period, including a fascinating description of how he creates usable soil to grow potatoes to increase his food supply.  Again, Watney's humor makes what might otherwise be tedious into a very readable account, and you come to accept the science that he describes as real and plausible.
If I had one criticism, it's that the book follows a somewhat predictable pattern of having say 3 to 4 of Watney's plans go well followed by a stumbling block that might prove to be his undoing, but he engineers another solution to overcome the setback.  However, that's not so much a complaint as an observation.
Overall, I thought The Martian was a great read, and I'm looking forward to seeing the movie for comparison.  And hey, maybe I'll be bold enough to try another Sci-Fi novel or two!
Josh Thomas, Central Library

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Thursday, November 05, 2015

[Memphis Reads 2015] Tonight is the night! Memphis Reads Book Talk and Signing at 7:00 PM

Memphis Reads 2015 draws to a close tonight at 7:00 PM as the authors of the epic novel, What is the What, make a final appearance.   

Book Talk and Signing with Author Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng
Thursday, November 5, 2015 
 7 pm
Creative Arts Building (2375 Tiger Lane South)

Memphis Reads is made possible by partnerships between several local agencies, which include Christian Brothers University and their Fresh Reads program, the Memphis Public Library & Information Center, Friends of the Library, City of Memphis, Parks & Neighborhoods Division, Rhodes College, University of Memphis, Shelby County Schools, Facing History and Ourselves, Booksellers at Laurelwood, and Southwest Tennessee Community College. Other sponsoring agencies that are participating are International Paper, Nolan, Tennessee Arts Commission, South Arts, NEA, and Iris, Etc. Catering Services.

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Upcoming Holiday Closing November 11, 2015

All Memphis Public Library locations will be closed Wednesday November 11, 2015 for Veteran's Day. 

Customers have the option of reserving or renewing books by going to or calling 452-2047. 


Wednesday, November 04, 2015

[Memphis Reads 2015] Valentino Achak Deng visits Memphis Tonight at 6:00 PM

Valentino Achak Deng will share his firsthand account of what life was like on the run during the Second Sudanese Civil War and how he managed to escape unharmed as chronicled by Dave Eggers in the novel What is the What.  

Valentino Achak Deng in conversation with Rhodes Readers
November 4, 2015
6:00 PM (Reception at 5:30 p.m.)

Hardie Auditorium
Rhodes College
2000 North Pkwy

Visit Memphis Reads Events page for more details. 


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

[Memphis Reads 2015] Fresh Reads Top Ten Winner Baker Al-Jafari

What is the What
Baker Al-Jafari

When I was first handed the book, I wondered why it had such an odd title, but then after reading the book, it came to me. The metaphoric meaning of the “What” in Dave Eggers’ book What is the What is the human’s nature of wanting to know the unknown, which in some cases leads mankind to choose the unknown over something sure. There were many instances throughout the book that common mistakes were made by choosing the unknown instead of taking the sure thing that they have in front of them. “This is our first chance to choose the unknown” (531). Choosing the unknown is technically the same thing as gambling, because when people gamble they don’t know whether they will win or lose. If mankind didn’t want to know what the What was, then mankind would be a superior race because that’s one of the biggest flaws to mankind. The story of creation told by Achak’s father talks about how God gave man cattle and the What, which was unknown, but man choose the cattle, which was the wise decision (61-62). Choosing the What wouldn’t always be a bad decision, because Achak had to make decisions like that throughout the whole book from his time in refugee camps to coming to America.

Four years ago I was put in a situation where I had to make a hard decision not near anything as hard as Achak’s decisions but, I had a choice either stay in Jordan a third-world country where I have grown accustomed to living in or pick the “What,” which, in my case, was moving to America, a land that was across the globe and very different than the one I had grown up in. I had been born in America, but I lived in Jordan almost all my life, so I had no memory of living in America, because I left America when I was still a child. I had either to stay in Jordan with all my friends, family, customs and beliefs or move to America to live with my dad, start over and start a new life, new school, meet new people. I wasn’t up for all that at first, because of my shy nature. I always thought that when I moved to America I wouldn’t be able to make friends and start over the right way. I chose the What, going to a country unknown to me. I didn’t want to do it at first, but I did it. I moved to America my freshman year of high school. I overcame my fears, met new people, and started over. I basically started a new life for myself, a life with opportunities to become something, opportunities I didn’t have back home, so moving to America changed my life in ways I couldn’t even explain. Not all were good though, but still it gave me a better life than living in Jordan.

--Baker Al-Jafari

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