Shelfish: The Blog of Answers

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.

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.

The Invisible War

The Invisible War cover. Photograph of female soldier's face.I first heard about this film after it was nominated for an Academy Award. I decided to see it after Henry Rollins wrote about it. I'm going to repeat what he wrote, I encourage everyone to see this movie, but I can't recommend it. That may seem like a strange thing to say, especially on a page of recommendations, but the stories that are told in this film are devastating and will likely haunt you.

The Invisible War refers to the the epidemic of sexual assault within the U.S. Military. Today, a female soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. Statistics like this are peppered throughout the film, most of them coming directly from official Department of Defense reports. Academy Award nominated director Kirby Dick could have spun this as an anti-military film, but he didn't. Instead, through the emotional accounts of the men and women interviewed, the viewer gets a sense that change is possible.

This is a hard film to watch, but works of this nature are often the best way to facilitate change. Though The Invisible War did not win an Oscar, the nomination has brought national attention to the epidemic of intra-military sexual assault. Since its release, in late 2012, the Pentagon has developed policies aimed at increasing accountablity and victim care.

Find The Invisible War in the Library.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

norwegian wood cover. young couple facing each other with eyes closed.“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

If you've enjoyed any of Haruki Murakami's other novels you'll instantly recognize the protagonist Toru, a Caulfield-esque student moving aimlessly through school and youth while trying to reconcile the few important relationships in his life.

Norwegian Wood is a coming of age novel that explores first love and intimacy against a Tokyo backdrop in the late 60's. This is a great rainy day read as it has themes of beauty, sorrow and introspection. Although not his best work, Murakami fans will not be disappointed. Many will enjoy this book for the lush scenery and vivid atmosphere. For those wanting a less meandering tale, check out critically acclaimed novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

Find a copy of Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami on the shelf, as an eBook through Media On Demand, or the movie based on the book.

Famous Imaginary Places - A Quiz

wizard of oz characters on yellow brick road leading to the emerald city of oz.The Answers Department is full of people who are rabid pop culture junkies or just obsessively read and watch a lot of stuff. We have also spent our careers finding and storing away seemingly useless bits of information that we can pull out whenever we need to and use to convince people that we are brilliant. Therefore, we all thought we had this quiz in the bag. None of us got 100%, but all of us had a blast taking it and grading each other.

You can find a shortened version of the quiz on the AARP website, or the full quiz in the April issue of the AARPBulletin. Be sure to stop by the Answers Desk and tell us how you did.

Passage by Connie Willis

Cover image of the book Passage by Connie Willis. A long arched hallway where a woman walks with water close behind her. While investigating Near Death Experiences, psychologist Joanna Lander chooses to become her own subject. 

This means putting herself in a near death state to see what she discovers. What she finds is this: a bright light, a long corridor, and a door.  But it’s when she opens the door that she finds the real surprise.  Joanna is on the Titanic, and the Titanic is sinking.

Joanna, to her horror, now knows that the distinction between death and near death is not at all as well-defined as her experiments have led her to believe.

Find Passage in the library