Friday, December 19, 2014

UPCOMING HOLIDAY CLOSINGS DECEMBER 24-25, 2014 AND JANUARY 1, 2015

Click for all library Holidays and Closings

All Memphis Public Library locations will be closed on the following days:

Christmas Eve: Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Christmas Day: Thursday, December 25, 2014
2015 New Year's Day: Thursday, January 1, 2015


Don't forget to visit www.memphislibrary.org to reserve and renew books.  

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, magazines, and music 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.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

[News and Notes] December 17, 2014

It's that time of the year when the end of year best-of book lists pop up on the web. I've compiled a few below. 

100 Notable Books of 2014 -New York Times

2014 National Book Award Winners (Redeployment by Phil Klay won the National Book Award in Fiction)

The Best Books I Read in 2014 from Bill Gates

LibraryReads Favorite of Favorites 2014

Publisher's Weekly's Best Books of 2014

Riot Round-Up: The Best Books of 2014

Ever heard of NPR's Book Concierge? This website and app allows users to browse and discover titles recommended by National Public Radio's critics and staff.

For those who prefer recommendations from fellow readers instead of critics should look at the winners from 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards. 


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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

[Book Review] Six Months Off by Lamar Alexander

Nonfiction/Memoir 

Marilyn reviews SIX MONTHS OFF: AN AMERICAN FAMILY’S AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE by Lamar Alexander (Morrow, 1988)
How does a father and former governor of Tennessee reconnect with his family, who had been living in a governor's mansion which occasionally has tourists roaming through it? The solution: take time off.
While he was governor of Tennessee, Lamar Alexander, father of four children, had drifted away from his family’s lives. Now, with the end of his second term in sight, he noticed at the dinner table that three of his children had their chairs slightly turned toward their mother. From this setting begins Alexander’s idea of taking six months off, chronicled in his book, Six Months off: An American Family’s Australian Adventure.
"It just came up one night at supper. I remember that the sun was still hot through the big windows, even though it was six o’clock so it must have been midsummer, and it must have been 1985.

We were sitting at our places around the breakfast-room in the Mansion. I was at the head. Honey commanded the other end, guarding the only exit to the television set. The children sat two on each side..."

The family conversation turned from the children not eating their food to getting away for six months in a foreign country; one of several countries named was Australia.
The idea intrigued Lamar and his wife, Honey. Both agreed they needed a rest and started making plans. They found out that other families were thinking of doing the same thing. Lamar and Honey also wanted to take time away to transition from a governor’s family to a normal family.
According to Alexander, the landscape of Australia is a contrast of breathtaking wildernesses to modern coastal cities. With most of the population living near the seacoast, he reveals that some Australians rarely visit the interior of their country. But the book is more than a tour of Australia; it’s about a family getting to know one another, a father involving himself in his children’s lives, and Lamar Alexander’s observations of the similarities and differences between Australians and Americans.

Six Months Off is a humorous book that had this reviewer chuckling throughout the pages.
Marilyn, Central Library

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Monday, December 08, 2014

[Book Review] Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra

Fiction/Thriller

Raka reviews SACRED GAMES by Vikram Chandra (Penguin, Viking, 2007)


At the heart of Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games is a crime thriller, but ultimately this is a book that is so much more.  The novel is set in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) and revolves around the central plot of a middle-aged Sikh police inspector, Sartraj Singh, who seeks to capture the illusive mob boss, Ganesh Gaitonde.  Although this story frames the novel, Chandra weaves in a multitude of other subplots and uses flashbacks to illuminate the lives of a number of secondary characters.  Coming in at 900 plus pages, Chandra creates a sprawling and tumultuous tale, reflecting the chaos of modern India itself.


Nominated for the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award, Chandra’s creation has been called Dickensian in its scope, “linguistically challenging,” a social novel, a noir novel, and a developing world thriller.  In one sense, it is a book about Indians for Indians.  Chandra takes for granted that the reader has knowledge of India’s past and present, and drops one down into a sea of Hindi, Marathi, and Urdu words. But not to fear, he also provides a handy glossary, which readers can turn to for further clarification.  For me, the glossary adds to the fun of this book, because as an Indian, I found myself intrigued by the range of idiomatic expressions and obscenities with which Chandra peppers the novel.  It is the stuff of every naughty schoolboy (or girl) and gave me a chance to acquaint (and reacquaint) myself with a range of colorful slang expressions.


Chandra’s love of India, and especially Mumbai, is evident in this book.  His descriptions of slums, police stations, the rich, and the poor, provide a vivid picture of a metropolis that the British aptly named “the gateway to India.” Chandra is also well versed in Indian history and the social, economic, and political issues that have framed this nation historically and in the present day.  One of the most poignant back stories of the novel and one that may stick with me long after Sartraj Singh and Gaitonde fade away, is his development of the character of Singh’s mother.  Chandra’s sensitive rendition of her experience of the Indian Partition is one that pulls on the heartstrings of anyone who has suffered loss at the hands of prejudice, hatred, and the inevitable cruelty of historical change.


Sacred Games scope and playfulness lends itself to comparisons to James Joyce’s Ulysses, but that novel’s iconic use of language is a somewhat awkward fit with the approachability (and sometimes delightful trashiness) of Chandra’s plot and prose.  Instead, I look to popular music to provide a better comparison.  Legendary double albums, like The White Album, Exile on Main Street, Songs in the Key of Life, Sign of the Times, or the multi-disc 69 Love Songs, provide a better guide to the achievement of Sacred Games.  Those albums were overly ambitious attempts to create music milestones and the artists throw in everything but the kitchen sink in the quest for greatness.  In the end, the albums may not have the artists’ greatest hits, and include several failed experiments (“Revolution 9” comes to mind), but the sheer hubris of the journey and the variety of musical experiences make these works perhaps the most admirable in their creators’ enviable catalogues.  Chandra’s novel strikes me as the same; an enormous undertaking that goes down several dangerous rabbit holes but leaves one gasping for breath at the end.
Raka, Central Library

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Monday, December 01, 2014

[Book Review] Fierce Patriot by Robert L. O'Connell

Nonfiction/History


Philip reviews Fierce Patriot: the Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman by Robert L. O'Connell (Random House, 2014)


Robert L. O'Connell offers a very readable biography of an important figure in American history, William Tecumseh Sherman. Without Sherman's contributions as a military leader and strategist during the Civil War, the United States could have lost the War. As General of the Army, after the War, he oversaw the suppression of the remaining Native American tribes, west of the Mississippi, to ensure the completion of the Trans-Continental and other railroads. With the railroads, Sherman knew the rest of the future United States would be settled by Americans thirsty for new lands.


O'Connell does a superb job of chronicling the life of a complicated and controversial man. Most of the book is devoted to Sherman's role in the Civil War, but O'Connell offers a detailed account of Sherman's complex relationship with his foster father, the politically powerful Thomas Ewing, and with his foster Ewing siblings, including Ellen, who he took as his wife, and with his brother by blood, John Sherman.


It is a well-written, fascinating book, one hard to put down. It is a good introduction to the life of Sherman for anyone not familiar with him.  But also one the student of Civil War history would find valuable.


One criticism of the book those readers already familiar with Sherman could have is that O'Connell is too sympathetic to Sherman. Sherman was ruthless and cruel in many ways, and some readers may find O'Connell too forgiving of the man whose policies had tragic consequences for Native Americans and for the millions of bison he ordered slaughtered to eliminate them as a food source for Native Americans.

Philip Williams, Cordova

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Monday, November 24, 2014

LIBRARY HOLIDAY CLOSING NOVEMBER 27-28 FOR THANKSGIVING




All locations of the Memphis Public Library & Information Center will be closed Thursday, November 27th, AND Friday, November 28th for Thanksgiving. 

Customers have the option of  reserving or renewing books by going to www.memphislibrary.org 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 12, 2014

[Book Review] Stress Test by Timothy F. Geithner

Nonfiction/History

Philip reviews STRESS TEST: REFLECTIONS ON FINANCIAL CRISES by Timothy F. Geithner (Crown Publishers, 2014)


Stress Test refers to the plan that Timothy Geithner, President Obama’s first Treasury Secretary, had to end the financial crisis that began in 2008.  Geithner, though, must also have meant the title to refer to what he faced during the frightening times that could have seen the complete collapse of the United States Finance System.  A collapse would have caused a subsequent global depression that would have caused unimaginable suffering for millions in the U.S. and worldwide.  


Geithner played a major role, as head of the Federal Reserve New York Bank, before becoming Treasury Secretary, in stabilizing the Financial Crisis.  This memoir of his experience during these frightening times is engrossing, and possibly surprising to some, even riveting in parts.  His account is very frank and candid and Geithner does not hesitate to talk about his shortcomings and the mistakes he made. But he makes a compelling case for why the actions he took, though politically unpopular and widely criticized by members of the right and left, ended the Financial Crisis and the possibility of a worldwide economic crisis.  


Perhaps a book many might suspect to be a difficult read, it is not.  In fact, it is a fast read, and Geithner makes comprehensible to the lay reader what leveraging, derivatives, hedge funds and other financial activities are and how they or their misuse contributed to the Financial Crisis.  This is certainly an important book, one that all people who want to understand what happened to our Financial System should read.  Readers will have to make their own judgments on whether Geithner was right or wrong in his actions and if his advice on how to prevent future financial crises is sound.

Philip, Cordova Branch

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Monday, November 10, 2014

[News and Notes] Memphis Public Library Check Out Policy Changes

Look for this sticker on all new books

As of November 3, 2014 Memphis Public Library has made the following changes:

All print books (including the former “Popular Library” books) can be requested and sent to other library branches for holds.

All print books have a 21-day check-out period

All books are eligible for two (2) renewals

All DVDs and VHS tapes have a 7-day check-out period




The library catalog also offers the new “AVAILABLE SOON” feature, which allows users to place holds on titles before they are released (Available Soon page)

If you have any questions about the new check out loan periods, please call any of our library branch locations.

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