Shelfish: The Blog of Answers

Stories of Surveillance

Sales of George Orwell's classic, 1984, have soared following the revelation of a government spying program and all of our copies are currently checked out. Originally published in 1949, 1984 has been a staple on required reading lists in the U.S. for decades. Here's a list of similar reads:

1984 by George Orwell

Portrays life in a future time when a totalitarian government watches over all citizens and directs all activities.

 

 

 

 

 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

A totalitarian regime has ordered all books to be destroyed, but one of the book burners suddenly realizes their merit.

Spotlight on Downloadable Material

Old fashioned glasses on top of an open bookA recent study by Renaissance Learning suggests that required reading for American students has become less complex over the last hundred years. According to their report, complexity is determined by vocabulary difficulty, word length and sentence length but not more difficult to define, quantitative content such as plot, theme or sub-text. Below you’ll find a list of the top five most popular assigned books for 1907 and 2012. Many of these books are available as easy-to-download eBooks or audiobooks from the Library’s Media on Demand service. Check a couple out and decide for yourself. You can also download the full report, What Kids are Reading, which includes much more information, including grade school reading statistics and thoughts on why kids choose their recreational reading materials.

1907
Julius Caesar by  William Shakespeare (eBook)
Macbeth by William Shakespeare (eBook)
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Milton's Minor Poems by John Milton
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (Audio)

2012
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Crucible by Arthur Miller (eBook)
Night by Elie Wiesel (Audio)
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (eBook)
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Audio)

The Art of Betrayal by Gordon Corera

art of betrayal dust jacket. manilla dossier with the title stamped across in red letters. “Scratch beneath the thin veneer of glamour and much of the routine work of MI6 was a form of glorified train-spotting…”

“The professional skill of espionage…is the exploitation of human weakness”.

In The Art of Betrayal, Gordon Corera navigates through the complicated history of MI6 (the British equivalent of the CIA) after the Second World War  Relying on both first-hand accounts of intelligence officers as well as official government records, Corera examines (in great detail) the strategic role espionage has played throughout the world over the past sixty years; from racing against the Soviets in trying to find and smuggle scientists out of Vienna and into the West immediately after the War, to the execution of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the 9/11 attacks and subsequent invasion of Iraq, as well as the numerous traitors, double-agents and blown operations found in-between.

The text also intermittently refers to the books of Graham Greene, Ian Fleming and John le Carré (all of whom had worked for the government [in one capacity or another] during the War) and the events that had inspired their work.

For those interested, The Art of Betrayal is more le Carré than Fleming (and more George Smiley than James Bond) in that it reveals a cold, grey world full of shadows and doubt, which operates in a frightfully indifferent and “matter-of-fact” manner that, if nothing else, highlights the moral ambiguity of it all.  While it may prove a bit dense for some, readers already familiar with Cold War politics, as well as fans of the spy genre as a whole, should find it both informative and enjoyable.

Find The Art of Betrayal at the Library.

Man of Steel Primer

Superman still from the film "Man of Steel"With the new Superman film only days away, and everyone excited to see which direction it takes the world’s first superhero, maybe it is a good time to check out a few of the comic book story arcs which were reportedly influential to the direction of the new version of the Man of Steel.
 
In 1986, John Byrne rewrote the Superman origin story, re-introducing elements such as the destruction of Krypton, Clark Kent discovering his alien heritage, and the Daily Planet newsroom, all of which have become well-known staples of the Superman mythology.
 
John Byrne continued to refine the Superman origin story, further developing the planet Krypton and revealing that genetic engineering may have been somehow responsible for Superman's abilities. Man of Steel director Zach Snyder has publicly credited this story arc as an influence on his film.
 
Geoff Johns examines Clark Kent's mixed emotions and torn allegiances between his human adopted parents and his Kryponian birth parents, showing us how these duel influences led him to become Superman. Man of Steel writer David Goyer wrote the introduction to this volume while working on his script.
 
Mark Waid tells the origin story again, this time updating it for the 21st century and adding new details such as Clark Kent as a globe traveler trying to "find himself" and Lois Lane as an investigator following reports of a super-powered "good Samaritan" which reportedly figure prominently in the new film.
 
All of these volumes are available through the Library. Just click the titles to visit our catalog and reserve them.

The Third Son by Julie Wu

silhouette of a young boy in a field. Two warplanes are seen in the distance. Saburo is the third and least favorite son of a Taiwanese politician growing up during Japanese occupation in the early 1900s. During an air raid, Saburo meets a young girl, also trying to survive the attack. Soon after his family flees to the countryside in an attempt to escape corruption and riots in the city. Saburo spends the next decade trying to find the girl from his youth. But when he finally does, she is out of his reach.

The Third Son is a fast and engrossing piece of historical fiction. You will find yourself rooting for the protagonist at every turn. Even though it is an emotional read, there are some well placed humorous moments that keep the story from ever being overly dramatic. Far from being your run-of-the-mill coming of age story, there are important themes of war, culture, loyalty, love and family that make this such an interesting read. Highly recommended.

Find The Third Son at the library.

Personal Record by Eleanor Friedberger

Personal Record by Eleanor Friedberger. Dark haired woman swimming away from camera.It's hard to not like a musician that hangs out at libraries (especially ones in Chicago).

This is Eleanor Friedberger's second solo effort. Friedberger was half of the brother-sister band, The Fiery Furnaces for the last decade. The siblings are originally from Oak Park, Illinois.

Personal Record is a playful album with some poppy tunes about everyday things like clipping coupons. Friedberger said she wanted the album to have an "easy breezy" feel to it. Friedberger takes inspiration from her heroes of 70s pop/rock and fans of that era will like this album. I listened to it three times before I decided I liked it. If you only listen to one other album from her career, listen to Blueberry Boat, but you'll want to hear more after that.

Find Personal Record at the library.

Arrested Development

We're super excited about the return of Arrested Development on Netflix this weekend. Prepare for the new episodes with this list of appropriate selections that you can check out from the Eisenhower Library.

Arrested Development
All three original seasons on DVD.

Breakfast: 200 Recipes to Start the Day by Brian Wilton
What do we always say is the most important thing?

Banana! by Ed Vere
How much could a banana cost? Ten dollars?

How to Break out of Prison by John Wareham
Is there a private bathroom nearby?

Scary Creatures of the Wetlands by Penny Clarke
They're stupid and wet, and there are bugs everywhere.

All the Secrets of Magic Revealed by Herbert L. Becker
You're out of the Magician's Alliance.

Hook
You’re a crook Captain Hook.

The Blue Man Group
Want a blue man for less green?

The Final Countdown
Oh come on!

A Charlie Brown Christmas
Why? So you can fly away from your feelings?

The Office of Mercy by Ariel Djanikian

The office of mercy book cover. Forest scene with damaged biosuit helmet lying on ground."The only hope was for places of peace to go on, she thought, and for places of horror to disappear."

Natasha Wiley lives in the underground settlement America-Five three centures after The Storm wiped out most of humanity.  The citizens of America-Five have dedicated their lives to World Peace, Eternal Life, and All Suffering Ended. While these appear to be noble ideals, they come at a cost.

Whether you're a dystopian fiction addict or a newcomer to the genre, this is a book you'll have a hard time putting down. Fans of Brave New World, 1984  and The Hunger Games will enjoy this novel.

Find The Office of Mercy by Ariel Djanikian on the shelf.

The Great Gatsby

Jay Gatsby holding Daisy Buchanan in formal wear with the eye doctor billboard in the background.The new Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, Australia, Strictly Ballroom) movie, The Great Gatsby is part video game, part Busby Berkeley extravaganza. It's a two and a half hour wild ride, "Old sport." If you're looking for a faithful interpretation of the Scott Fitzgerald classic, you'd be better off picking one of the older versions. The novel has been made into a movie six times.

Find the Robert Redford version in the Library.

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