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Cover art for What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs

What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs

Written by Cat Warren

About one year after the death of her previous German shepherd, journalism professor Cat Warren decided she was ready for a new dog. Unfortunately, Solo, born without siblings, was the polar opposite of his predecessor: full of energy, resistant to conventional obedience training, and aggressive with other dogs. Eventually, an obedience trainer told Warren that what Solo really needed was a job, and Solo's career as a cadaver dog began. This book is not only the story of the process by which Solo and Warren learned how to find the bodies of missing people, but also an examination of working dogs of all types, and the human handlers who partner with them to do a variety of difficult (and sometimes unpleasant) jobs. All by itself, the story of Solo and the work he does is pretty amazing, but the addition of information on the science of canine sense of smell, and the history of humans and their canine partners make this book a fascinating read.

Recommended by Catherine
Cover art for Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector

Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector

Written by Mick Brown

Phil Spector's Wall of Sound was the music of my childhood. From Ronnie and the Ronettes (To Know Him is to Love Him), the Righteous Brothers (You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin'), to John Lennon (Happy Christmas, War is Over), George Harrison (My Sweet Lord), and the Rolling Stones (The Last Time) - all produced by Phil Spector.

So the music was GREAT. The man who produced all that lovely music however, was troubled. Mick Brown gives a very fair and unbiased look at what made Phil Spector. From his childhood to the trial for killing Lana Clarkson, we are given a unique look at his life. Without giving too much away, as we learn about his family, the events of his childhood, and how those events stayed with him his entire life, we develop an understanding of his trajectory. Phil is a total contradiction, make him an enemy and he will write you off, but he also could be an unswerving friend. Phil took Lenny Bruce under his protection and supported him while he lived, and buried him when he died.

I respect both his talent and the music he gave us. A strange, troubled man - one hopes he is able to find some happiness in his life. Is he guilty of killing Clarkson? I have no idea and Mick Brown does not address the issue of guilt or innocence either. He does relate Spector's fascination with and constant possession of guns.

Whether or not you are interested in the life and times of Phil Spector this book is engaging. It's a trip through musical history and the people and productions that made the soundtrack of America from the 1950's to the 1980's and on and on....

Recommended by Suzi
Cover art for The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Written by Neil Gaiman

My first Gaiman book and it was a winner! The main character returns to his home for a funeral and begins to drive past the place where his childhood home had been (it is gone) and follows the road to where it becomes a lane. The lane leads to a farm where the events of his childhood return to memory. As his memory returns he relates how those events changed his life forever. Magical and strange, this novella stays with you. It begins with death and ends with life. I've never read anything quite like it before.

Gaiman has a wonderful way expressing how a child would view the world; isolated and beset with mysterious occurrences, the boy (he is not named in the book) quietly reacts to the events around him sometimes with disastrous results.

While this is not a happy story, it is beautiful and poignant like a bittersweet chocolate. Read it and think of those ragged edges of childhood memory.

Recommended by Suzi
Cover art for The Information: A Theory, a History, a Flood

The Information: A Theory, a History, a Flood

Written by James Gleick

Gleick’s book is broad in scope -- providing a global history of information technology and its effects on the world today. The book is a blend of science, history, and biography that covers everything from the talking drums of Africa to the creation of the dictionary; from the development of computing to the discovery of DNA. More than just a history of information science, Gleick takes us through a history of communication and how radical inventions, such as the telegraph and telephone (not to mention the computer) completely remade cultural norms and had far-reaching, worldwide impacts. Most importantly, Gleick shows that “hardly any information technology goes obsolete” and understanding where we came from helps us get a handle on current technology and inventions.

At more than 500 pages this book covers a lot of ground, but Gleick has a way of explaining difficult and complex concepts in an easy to understand, and often humorous, manner. His mini-biographies on the various scientists and inventors who have pushed along information science are not to be missed, especially those of Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, and Claude Shannon. Highly recommended!

Recommended by Andi
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Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

Written by Werner Herzog

In this intriguing documentary, acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog follows hunters and trappers from the remote Siberian village of Bakhta through their seasonal routines in the isolated wilderness of the taiga.

The cinematography is beautiful and Herzog pays special attention to how the characters evolve emotionally throughout the year. He also captures simple yet precise observations of their lives. Culture, landscape, and the rhythm of each season are also important features of this film. To delve even deeper into the understanding of landscape and season, check out the special features.

Recommended by Beth
Cover art for Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Written by Roz Chast

You've probably seen Roz Chast's cartoons before; they have been published in the New Yorker for the past several decades. In this graphic novel memoir, Chast expands beyond her usual panel or two to tell the story of the ends of her parents lives; from the slow, inevitable decline of old age, to serious illnesses requiring full-time care, to both their deaths within the space of two years. Serious and sad, certainly, but also frequently humorous, as Chast navigates the tricky (and expensive) task of caring for her parents.

For more of Chast's work, check out Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected and Health-Inspected Cartoons, 1978-2006, also available at the library.

Recommended by Catherine
Cover art for Smoking Ears and Screaming Teeth: A Celebration of Scientific Eccentricity and Self-Experimentation

Smoking Ears and Screaming Teeth: A Celebration of Scientific Eccentricity and Self-Experimentation

Written by Trevor Norton

Smoking Ears and Screaming Teeth is a brief history of scientific experimentation, featuring scientists and doctors who acted as their own test subjects, ingesting and injecting all manner of substances into their own bodies, all in the name of discovery. For example, zoologist Frank Buckland, who would eat *anything* in his quest to expand the human diet, and Nobel-prize-winning surgeon Werner Forssman, who injected a catheter into his own heart. Obviously, this book is not for the squeamish, but if you enjoy really entertaining non-fiction, check out Screaming Ears and Smoking Teeth.

Recommended by Abe
Cover art for The Wall

The Wall

Written by Marlen Haushofer

After watching the recent film version of The Wall, directed by Julian Roman Polsler, (also available from the library), which is based on Austrian author Marlen Haushofer's novel, originally written and published in the 1960s, I was intrigued by the story and wanted to read the book. In The Wall, an unnamed female narrator recounts what is happening in the wake of mysterious and cataclysmic disaster, which has cut her off from the outside world. She has to come to grips with the fact that she must now figure out how to survive alone except for a variety of animal companions. Both the book and the film provide a stark and unrelenting narrative on the reflection of knowing self through solitude, the development of deep and meaningful bonds with animals, and the blurring lines between self and the natural world when immersed and connected to wilderness.

In the years since it was published, The Wall has been widely read and translated, and has been recognized as an important and influential novel for its treatment of issues ranging from feminism,criticism of modern civilization, and anti-nuclear proliferation.

Recommended by Beth
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Carrie Hepple's Garden

Written by Ruth Craft
Illustrated by Irene Haas

Carrie Hepple's Garden is another favorite from the 'reading to my kids' era. There is a cool kind of shivery feeling in the beginning as we learn of Carrie Hepple--the neighborhood eccentric. Then the kids' ball sails over the wall to Carrie Hepple's Garden! The children sneak in expecting to find a scary old "witch"; instead they are surprised and amazed at who Carrie Hepple really is.... The writing is poetic, the watercolor illustrations perfect for invoking the mysterious world of this book. The quiet message to not rush to judgement about people is craftily woven into this gentle story. Bonus points for use of the hedgehog!

Recommended by LouAnn and the Gagne'-Hawes clan.
Cover art for The Maggie B

The Maggie B

Written by Irene Haas
Illustrated by Irene Haas

The plot of this picture book is summed up by the Library of Congress like so: "A little girl's wish to sail for a day on a boat named for her 'with someone nice for company' comes true”. Maggie's little brother is that "someone nice" and the two of them spend the day on their little boat living the sea life. The boat is fully equipped with a tree bearing fruit, also various chickens and a goat. Maggie herself fishes and serves up sumptuous meals of lobster and peaches with cinnamon and honey for dessert. The day is simple and homey, the only real source of concern a thunderstorm that threatens their serenity towards the end of the day. Even then, Maggie thoughtfully battens down the hatches and plays her fiddle to her brother, tucked snugly in his bed.
I read this book often to my kids. We also had a boat, admittedly with none of the accoutrements that the Maggie B had, but we loved reading this simple book so much because it’s filled with love. It totally gets across a big sister’s imagining of a “perfect day” with a loved sibling. How could you go wrong? Twenty-some years later, all three of the kids remember this story with a smile. We love this book.

Recommended by LouAnn, Genevieve, Anna and Alexander

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