Ages 18+.

Award Winning Audiobook - The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer 2010. 20 hrs. 30 mins.

Awards: The Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, 2011. TIME Magazine’s All- TIME 100 Non-Fiction books.

Author: Siddhartha Mukherjee

Narrator: Stephen Hoye

As a hematology/oncology fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, Siddhartha Mukherjee was challenged by one of his patients to explain cancer. This biography of the disease, which takes on the enormous task of describing cancer and it’s treatment from ancient Egypt through modern day, is the result. Although the breadth of the story is intimidating, The Emperor of All Maladies is a great listening experience. The narrator did an excellent job with the personal stories of Mukherjee and his patients and I found the book informative but easy to comprehend.

On March 30th, inspired by Mukherjee’s book and with the support of Stand Up to Cancer, PBS and the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns will air the first episode of a 3-part, 6-hour television event. Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies is hailed as the most comprehensive documentary on a single disease ever made. As Ken Burns explains, “the series matches the epic scale of the disease, reshaping the way the public sees cancer and stripping away some of the fear and misunderstanding that has long surrounded it. The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience and perseverance but also of hubris, paternalism and misperception.”

Part one of the film airs on Monday March 30, 2015 from 9-11pm e.s.t. For a schedule of upcoming episodes and interviews with executive producer Ken Burns, visit the PBS website.

Can't Wait for our 3/23 Laura Ingalls Wilder Event? Try Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen!

In advance of AADL's upcoming event, Laura Ingalls Wilder & Her Place in the World on Monday, 3/23, here is a review of Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen, a beautiful work of fiction that ties into loving Laura Ingalls Wilder, and shares themes that appear in the Little House books and in Laura's own life

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen is the story of Lee Lien, a first-generation American daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, who spent her childhood reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series in the backseat as her family crisscrossed the Midwest, running one tacky Asian buffet after another. Lee is now grown and in possession of a English Literature Ph.D, but no job offers. In returning to live with her short-tempered mother and goodnatured grandfather, Lee stumbles upon a family heirloom that may prove a connection to Rose Wilder Lane, daughter of Lee’s beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder. As she chases down clues to prove her theory, she struggles with the everyday realities of her own family.

Nguyen draws some striking parallels between her story and that of the real life and fictionalized versions of the Ingalls Wilder characters. There’s the “missing pieces” of the Ingalls’ family’s real life that are not depicted in the books, such as the birth and death of a son and a stint as innkeepers in Iowa, which relates to the unknowable things in Lee’s own family history, such as the impact of her grandfather’s Saigon cafe on a traveling American writer, the circumstances of her father’s death, or the true state of her mother’s relationship with a family friend. The fraught relationship between the real life mother and daughter Laura and Rose is mirrored in Lee’s interactions with her own mother. Even Laura’s “itchy foot” desire to move ever westward appears as Lee follows her investigation from Illinois to the California coast.

This is the story of a young woman who must go back in order to go forward and how you never know what you might find between the covers of a book.It’s an excellent read whether you are a Little House lover or not, but readers of the Little House series will be especially appreciative of hints of Nguyen’s own obvious adoration.

Looking for more Laura Ingalls Wilder? Try this list of titles that includes biographies, writers chasing their own Laura obsessions, or books that just capture that young girl/big frontier feel.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #518 - “Why aren’t midwives the heroines of society that they should be? Why do they have such a low profile? They ought to be lauded to the skies, by everyone.” ~ Jennifer Worth

I have been unashamedly hand-selling The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth in the past weeks and so far, great reports from everyone who've read it.

Former Australian (Melbourne) Event Planner Sally Hepworth sets her US debut in Providence/Conanicut Island (RI) where three generations of midwives called home. This is a lovely story about family, and at the heart of the matter - "biology was only part of it".

In the 7th month of her pregnancy, Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is still determined to keep the identity of the baby's father hidden from her family and co-workers. Though her mother Grace has a hard time accepting Neva's request for privacy, her grandmother Floss, a retired midwife herself, is handling the news with great understanding, having kept a bombshell-of-a-secret in the front pocket of her handbag for five decades.

As Neva's due date approaches, her decision to raise her child as a single parent turns complicated when her best friend, Patrick Johnson, a McDreamy pediatrician offers to be the baby's father while two other likely candidates (Neva is never quite sure) actually have claims on the title. When a difficult birth threatens Grace's license, and Floss suffers a heart attack, secrets are revealed; and the family rallies to usher in Neva's baby, born during a horrific winter storm.

"This intelligent, well-plotted debut will draw readers in from the very first word and keep them engaged until the end." Readers interested in further exploring the topic of midwifery would delight in Midwives by Christopher Bohjalian; the Hope River series by Patricia Harman; and let's not forget Call the Midwife, a BBC series adaptation of Jennifer Worth's memoir.

Waiting (not so) patiently for A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler?

Anne Tyler's 20th (and rumored to be final) novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, continues her trademark talent for finding beauty and complexity in the mundane details of average family life. The story follows the Whitshaw family, whose long-married, but mismatched parents, Red and Abby, are aging and beginning to struggle with the upkeep on the big house in which they raised their four children. As Abby's memory begins to fail, their grown children circle home to help, to make decisions, and to open old wounds and resentments. Fans of Tyler's previous novels may find some familiar ground here, but all readers will appreciate the Tyler's ability to hone in on universalities in family dynamics.

Here are a few titles to tide you over while you wait or to recommend to your book club after they devour A Spool of Blue Thread:

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy - The 13 Turner children, nearly all of them born and raised in the family's 3 bedroom house on the east side of Detroit, face the realities of their pasts and their futures as they come together to decide the fate of their family home in a disentigrating city.

The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver - The house at Ashaunt Point has long anchored the Porter family through the upheaval of war, personal tragedies, changing fortunes, in this powerful examination of the ties that bind families together.

Someone by Alice McDermott - This gem of a domestic fiction novel follows Brooklyn-born Marie Commeford as she navigates changing social norms and expectations from her pre-Depression birthdate throughout her humble yet fascinating life.

Some Luck by Jane Smiley - This first part of a planned trilogy tells the story of Iowa farming family the Langdons, starting in 1920 and moving through the decades as their family grows and changes against the backdrop of the 20th century.

Life-Changing Magic…

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is an international best-selling book by Marie Kondo that is apparently magically changing lives. Kondo is a cleaning consultant that has created the KonMari Method, and with this she challenges you to ponder the significance of everything you own, and to keep only those items that spark joy. This includes everything – clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous stuff, and items with sentimental value. She instructs on how to sift through these items, how to purge what is not needed, and how to feel wonderful after doing so.

The book is full of wisdom and insight on how to make what you own fit into the space you live in. She states that no one should claim they have no space for storage. Her idea is that if you tidy a little bit every day you will be tidying up for the rest of your life. If you follow the KonMari method and follow through, tidying every day will not be necessary. This is not simply buying some bins and storing your stuff. This delves much deeper into analyzing every item you own and in a particular order.

People across the country have been devouring this book, including me, and I wonder how others are doing with the process! Will you Kondo your house?!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #517 - "Excuse me, but I absolutely cannot understand how after eating my fill here I could go past a bakery and steal a roll.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

One of The Huffington Post's most anticipated debut of 2015, Hausfrau* * a novel by award-winning poet Jill Alexander Essbaum (faculty, University of California, Riverside) is an exquisite tale of an expatriate American wife living in Switzerland and her sexual and psychic unraveling, "(written) with an elegance, precision, and surehandedness that recalls Marguerite Duras's The Lover and Anita Brookner's (Booker Prize) Hotel du Lac." ~ Janet Fitch

38 year-old Anna Benz, "is a good wife, mostly." Mother of three, married to a Swiss banker, they live in a picture-perfect suburb of Zurich. But Anna is falling apart inside. At the suggestion of her analyst Doktor Messerli, Anna enrolls in German language classes "to become more connected to the world", but continues to slip into a string of extramarital affairs that eventually exact a price far more than she could ever imagine.

Navigating the lines between lust and love, guilt and shame, excuses and reasons, Anna Benz's story reveals how we create ourselves and how we lose ourselves, and the sometimes disastrous choices we make to find ourselves. "Isolated and tormented, Anna shares more than her name with that classic adulteress, Anna Karenina."

Literary fiction readers might want to further explore the subject with Adultery by Paulo Coelho; A Week in October by Elizabeth Subercaseaux; and I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #516

My Sunshine Away * * by M(ilton) O('Neal) Walsh unfolds in 1989, in the Woodland Hills subdivision, a leafy middle-class Baton Rouge neighborhood, when the unthinkable happened. 15 year-old Lindy Simpson, free spirit, track star, and belle of the block was raped, right there on Old Man Casemore's lawn, and no arrests were made.

Narrating before and after this pivotal summer is one of the 4 suspects - a 14 year-old boy who worships Lindy from his bedroom window across the street. Driven by a misguided desire to solve the crime, he eventually uncovers the truth but at a cost that virtually destroys everyone else in the process.

Baton Rouge native "Walsh (MFA, University of Mississippi and is currently the director of the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of New Orleans), brilliantly juxtaposes the enchantment of a charmed childhood with the gripping story of a violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love."

"At times funny, at times spine-tinglingly suspenseful, and at times just flat-out wise, this novel is also a meditation on memory, how it can destroy or damn us but redeem us as well" ~ Tom Franklin.

"... Not just southern, but American in its vivid Baton Rouge colors and scents, treetops and grasses, My Sunshine Away is the story of how the events of our youth profoundly affects us as adults,... A mystery you cannot wait to solve." ~ Kathryn Stockett

Southern fiction fans might also enjoy Stephen Wetta's debut novel If Jack's in Love * and What Dies in Summer by Tom Wright, another FFF.

* * = 2 starred review
* = Starred review

HeritageQuest Database Upgrade

Attention family history buffs and genealogy sleuths! The HeritageQuest database got a makeover on March 4th!

Now powered by Ancestry, HeritageQuest's new look and feel is more streamlined, functions similarly to Ancestry, and has powerful new search options that allow for greater specificity and control. In addition to the cosmetic and functional upgrades, they've also added a wealth of new content. For example, the 1790-1940 federal census now includes complete every-name indexes, 20,000 titles have been added to the family and local history books collection (almost doubling its content), and the revolutionary war collection has also been expanded.

With so many new, user-friendly features, you don't want to miss out on exploring it for yourself. Best of all, you can still access HeritageQuest remotely with your valid online library account login.

For more details about new content/changes, and for great tips, take a peek at HeritageQuest's helpful LibGuide. Happy sleuthing!

The 2015 Story Prize

Elizabeth McCracken was presented with the $20,000 Story Prize for her collection, Thunderstruck and Other Stories * * on March 4 in New York City.

The Story Prize is an annual book award honoring the author of an outstanding collection of short fiction with a $20,000 cash award.

Anyone who loves her work (my favorite remains the unforgettable The Giant's House - her debut novel and a National Book Award finalist) will agree that this award is richly deserved.

Thunderstruck is a collection of stories that navigates the fragile space between love and loneliness, including the title story in which a family finds their lives irrevocably changed by their teenage daughter's risky behavior.

Other finalists for the prize are Francesca Marciano for The Other Language * *, and Lorrie Moore for Bark * * * . They each received $5,000.

* * * = 3 starred reviews
* * = 2 starred review

New Adult Fiction: In Some Other World, Maybe

I saw In Some Other World, Maybe, by Shari Goldhagen, reviewed a few months ago and have been eagerly anticipating its arrival at the AADL ever since. And now that I’ve read it, I can vouch for its greatness! The premise of this book is an intriguing one. One night in the early ‘90s different groups of teenagers across the country go to see the same movie. Their motivations for seeing the film are all different (and some don’t even make it through the whole thing), but this early insight that readers gain into the characters’ younger years sets an excellent backdrop for the rest of the book. Over the next two decades, these characters’ lives connect and disconnect, entwined by friendship, love, ambition, fame, and tragedy. Goldhagen chooses to focus on different characters at different points in their lives, so sometimes readers are left wondering what the others are up to. More than once I was surprised and pleased when one character appeared in the plot line of another and the two stories went along together for awhile. It’s this instilment of curiosity in readers that keeps the book moving at an unexpectedly quick pace, and that kept me turning pages later into the night than was good for me.

BookPage calls In Some Other World, Maybe, “a compelling tale that leaves readers pondering what is and, had life taken another direction, what could have been.” Fans of Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings should absolutely give In Some Other World, Maybe a try.

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