Dan Brown's latest novel, Inferno

Last week, Dan Brown's new novel, Inferno was released and is in hot demand. In this 476 page blockbuster, Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor whose specialty in symbology takes him to Italy to unravel the secrets of Dante's Inferno, races against time to save the world.

Dan Brown came to the public's attention in 2003 when his intriguing, provocative, controversial The Da Vinci Code broke all sorts of publishing records and is, to this day, one of the bestselling novels of all time. Ever since, he has had one #1 bestseller after another. Just two years after The Da Vinci Code was released, Brown was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most influential People in the World.

Are you on the wait list for Inferno? Never fear, we have a list of great titles that share Brown's powerful formula of mixing history, religion, and/or literature and cryptography to tell a compelling story. Try some of these to tide you over until your number comes up.

Umberto Eco's very first novel, published in English 30 years ago, is considered a classic. In The Name of the Rose, Brother William of Baskerville, a 14th century monk, is sent to Italy to investigate seven deeply disturbing murders. Three years later, Sean Connery starred in the award-winning film version.

In The Eight (1988), Katherine Neville, tells the story of Catherine Velis, a computer pro for one of the Big Eight accounting firms. Velis is fascinated by the relationship between chess and mathematics and sets out on a dangerous quest to gather the pieces of an antique chess set, scattered across the globe. If found, the complete set will reveal a world-changing secret, which began in 1790.

Jonathan Rabb, in his popular 2001 The Book of Q, moves back and forth between sixth century Asia Minor and 20th century Croatia. Father Ian Pearse is a researcher at the Vatican Library who cannot forget his passionate affair eight years earlier with Petra. When he comes across the translation of an ancient scroll that reveals a shocking code, he returns to Bosnia (and, oh yes, Petra) to save the world from the secrets buried in the scroll.

Scrolls and diaries that beg to be decoded to reveal earth-shattering religious secrets, are at the center of The 13th Apostle (2007), by Richard and Rachael Heller. This time, the sleuths are Sabbie Karaim, a biblical scholar and ex-Israeli commando and Gil Pearson, an American cybersleuth who discover there are those who are willing to kill for this possible link to one of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

If you are too impatient for your hold for the print version of Inferno, why not try Paul Michael's dramatic narrative performance in the audiobook version?

First Position

First Position is a documentary about determination and drive. This film follows six young competitors in the very prestigious Youth America Grand Prix. You will sit on the edge of your seat as you watch these dancers pour their heart and soul into ballet. Their passion for the art is evident in their diligence as well as their final dances. For some the competition is about being able to make a career out of dancing and for others it is a way to ensure a good future, but for all of them the competitions represents a chance to have their passion for ballet affirmed and prove that their hard work was worth it.

Even though the young dancers come from very different backgrounds and their ages vary, all of them have families that support their desire to dance. Almost always this means making financial sacrifices and dedicating large amounts of time to driving the dancers to practice. In a few instances the families relocate in order to be closer to a prestigious trainer. One thing that becomes evident is that ballet is not just a hobby for these young people and their families, it is a lifestyle.

This documentary is beautiful and uplifting. I was amazed at the intensity the dancers had and at times cringed at the things they would put their bodies through in order to preform better. One of the nice aspects of the film was that none of the parents seemed too crazy. They did not push their kids to do something they did not want to do but rather worked to support the dreams that their kids already had. The one family that I thought might head in the crazy direction, in the end proved me wrong, allowing their child to quit ballet while his sibling continued on. His mother did cry, but she did not (at least on camera) beg him to continue dancing.

If you like watching ballet you should click here to see what other videos and other materials we have on this beautiful dance. Or perhaps you just like documentaries about people putting their heart and soul into something. If that is you, you’ll want to check out Kings of Pastry.

TV Time: Homeland

Are you looking for a new TV show to get sucked into? Look no further. In Showtime’s Homeland, US Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) returns home after spending eight years in Iraq as a prisoner of war, where he was found and rescued on a compound belonging to terrorist Abu Nazir. During an unauthorized mission in Iraq, CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) was warned by an informant that an Amerian POW was “turned” by al-Qaeda, and Mathison now believes that Brody is the "turned" POW and that he's plotting an attack on the US. Thinking her superiors wouldn’t believe her and wanting immediate action, Mathison takes it upon herself to set up surveillance on Brody watching him 24/7.

The suspenseful and intense television show focuses on Brody’s reunion with his family after being MIA for so long and now being thought of as a war hero, as well as with Mathison’s obsession with finding intel on Brody. Mathison is dealing with her own mental health issues and this helps fuel her manic search for evidence.

The critically acclaimed Homeland has aired two seasons, winning a 2012 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, as well as Outstanding Actor/Actress In A Drama Series awards for Lewis and Danes. As well as Golden Globe Awards for Best Television Series – Drama in both 2011 and 2012. A third season premieres this fall.

James Beard Foundation Cookbook awards


James Beard was a renowned American chef who introduced French cuisine and gourmet cooking to America. Called the "Dean of American cookery” by the New York Times in 1954, his foundation's awards are likened to the 'Oscars' of the culinary world. Just some of the award categories include best cookbooks (in various subcategories), chefs, & tv and radio cooking shows. The awards are voted on by culinary professionals & the full list can be found here. Below are some of the highlights:

Cookbook of the Year: Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America- delicious food from the many countries that comprise Latin America

Baking and dessert: Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza- From acclaimed Portland baker, Ken Forkish, comes this popular book about how to make the perfect bread

Focus on health: The New Way to Cook Light: Fresh Food & Bold Flavors for Today’s Home Cook- More than 400 recipes for healthy eating

General cooking: Canal House Cooks Every Day- Recipes inspired by the authors' blog, Canal House Cooks Lunch, by home cooks for home cooks

International: Jerusalem: A Cookbook- 120 recipes that highlight the flavors of Jerusalem

Vegetable focused & Vegetarian- Roots: The definitive compendium with more than 225 recipes- one more reason to love your veggies!

New TV shows on DVD @ AADL

The library is always acquiring additional TV shows, be they hot and new, or oldies but goodies. Here are some new DVDs on their way to AADL:

St. Elsewhere, Season 1
The medical drama features the doctors and nurses of the fictional St. Eligius hospital in South Boston. The show was known for it’s gritty, realistic style, and interweaving storylines.

The Big C, Season 1
The show follows suburban mom and teacher Cathy Jamison, who finds out she has melanoma. At first she keeps the news of her cancer from her family, but as the show progresses she lets them in and learns to live for the first time.

Shameless, Season 1
Meet the fabulously dysfunctional Gallagher family. William H. Macy portrays a single father of six, between the ages of two and twenty one. The father struggles with alcoholism while trying to keep his family from falling off the deep end, while also letting them fend for themselves.

Mr. Selfridge, Season 1
Jeremy Piven stars as American entrepreneur and colorful retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge. Pioneering and reckless, with an almost manic energy, Harry Selfridge created a theater of retail for early 1900s Londoners where any topic or trend that was new, exciting, entertaining-or sometimes just eccentric-was showcased. Based on the book “Shopping, Seduction and Mr. Selfridge” by author Lindy Woodhead.

From Monet to Van Gogh: A History of Impressionism

PissarroPissarro

It is hard to realize that Impressionist paintings, which are so beloved in our time, looked strange and radical and unfinished in the time they were created. How this painting style was born, out of the turbulence of France’s Second Empire, the rebuilding of Paris, the rejection of the official school of painting represented in the Salon, the unfolding view of modernity, and the creative impulse of painters experimenting with the representation of light and color is the subject of the Great Course DVD, From Monet to Van Gogh: A History of Impressionism, Parts 1 & 2.

The lecturer of this DVD series is art historian, professor and author Richard Brettell. He is an excellent presenter – very well informed, easy to listen to and passionate about his subject, he places Impressionism and its famous painters in the context of the history of France and the history of art. Brettell also takes a close look at the lives of the painters and examines and analyzes their paintings with practiced expertise. I feel like I can “see” the paintings differently, knowing more about their creation, technique and the statements the artists were trying to make. The close collaborations and bonds of friendship between artists, how older ones mentored younger ones, how they formed their own society (known as the Anonymous Society of Sculptors, Painters and Printmakers) to exhibit and sell their art, how they nurtured and challenged each other's artistic growth, and ended up making such a dramatic swerve in the history of artistic expression, makes for a fascinating story. Other Great Courses topics by Brettell include, Masterpieces of the Louvre and Masterpieces of the Metropolitan Museum of Art – your own tour through the collections of two great museums.

Great Courses is a treasure-trove of information on so many tempting subjects it is hard to choose just one at a time. Available in DVD format and also BOCD, you can invite university professors, who are experts in their fields, into your living room for private classes. Each course is made up of half-hour lectures on the topic and can range from 10 – 40 lectures in all. Peruse our catalog, or browse the shelves in the DVD & BOCD sections downtown, to find a subject you have always wanted to know more about.

By the way, the picture is the self-portrait of my favorite Impressionist painter. Can you guess who he is? Look here for the answer.

Tiny Toon Adventures

“We’re tiny, we’re toony, we’re all a little loony…”

So begins the theme song for the quintessential 90’s cartoon classic Tiny Toon Adventures. Featuring youthful versions of the arguably more famous Loony Tunes characters, Tiny Toons follows the wacky antics of Babs and Buster Bunny (no relation), Plucky Duck, Hampton Pig, and a slew of other characters during their time studying at Acme Looniversity and on their various misadventures.

Full of wacky humor, celebrity impressions, and brilliant music videos, Tiny Toon Adventures is sure to please new child audiences and the nostalgic adults!

Born into Brothels

This is a stirring documentary about “the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art.” Born into Brothels follows several young children who live in the red light district of Calcutta. Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski collaborated on piecing together this beautiful film. Briski formed an interest in the children living in the red light district while living in a brothel and photographing the woman. The interest blossomed into a desire to provide the children of these women with cameras and some basic instruction on photography. The result is a fascinating insight into a life that is foreign to many of us. Many of the children’s photographs are highlighted and are a beautiful depiction of a difficult life. You cannot help but be uplifted by the laughter of these kids as they run through the streets taking pictures. One particularly unforgettable segment of the film is when Briski takes the children to the beach in order to photograph the surroundings. Their excitement is palpable and the resulting photographs are striking.

The beauty of this documentary is not only in the aesthetic appeal of the pictures, but also the impact that photography has on the children’s lives. In an atmosphere of poverty and illegal sex trafficking, the hope that is generated from empowering the children in this environment is inspiring. Art and education are two very powerful things and Born into Brothels chronicles providing access to both.

The film won the 77th Academy Awards for Best Documentary and the film’s website Kids with Cameras (KWC) is definitely worth visiting. You can view the kid’s photographs as well as get updates on what they went on to do after the film. KWC has since completed a merge with another nonprofit organization Kids with Destiny. This merger has resulted in the realization of a KWC project Hope House which is expected to be completed later this year.

If you like Born into Brothels, you may also like Wade in the Water, Children, a documentary on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina told from the perspective of the children who lived through it.

Lincoln: The Man, the Legend

The historical drama Lincoln, starring Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, is based in part on the book Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Lincoln was produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, who immediately wanted rights to the film once he heard that Goodwin was planning to write the book.

The film focuses on Lincoln's last months of office in 1865, during a time of war and change, and his efforts to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would abolish slavery. The film depicts the tension and conflict in the United States, while painting a revealing portrait of Abraham Lincoln during a momentous time in American history.

With an all-star cast that also includes Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the critically-acclaimed film was nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards and twelve Academy Awards. Daniel Day Lewis won a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Actor for his phenomenal performance as the President. There are still grumbles that Lincoln should have won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but that honor went to another recommended historical drama, Argo.

Frank Bank, aka Lumpy on Leave It to Beaver, has died

Frank Bank, who played Lumpy Rutherford in the popular 1950s sitcom, Leave It to Beaver, died yesterday.

In a role that today probably would not be played for laughs, Lumpy was a large overweight friend of Wally Cleaver (played by Tony Dow), Beaver's aka The Beav's (Jerry Mathers) older brother. Even then television made the connection between being bullied at home (Lumpy's father often berated him -- ("big oaf " and "big boob" were two favorite insults of Mr. R.'s)) and passing it on to the outside world (Lumpy often targeted The Beav).

In real life, Bank was a very successful California municipal bonds broker who was known for his generosity. He and another Beaver actor, Ken Osmond who forever immortalized the slimy suck-up to grown-ups, Eddie Haskell, raised lots of money for veterans' charities.

Mr. Banks died just one day after his 71st birthday.

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