Shelfish: The Blog of Answers

Five Nightmare-Inducing True Stories

Helter Skelter Book CoverLast week I offered five horror novel suggestions to get you ready for Halloween. But it occured to me that, at this time of year, nonfiction fans might be looking for some nightmare inducing books, too. So without further ado, here are five suggestions of real-life horror stories.
A fascinating tale of chemistry and detection, poison and murder, The Poisoner's Handbook is a page-turning account of a forgotten era. In early twentieth-century New York, poisons offered an easy path to the perfect murder. Science had no place in the coroner's office and corruption ran rampant. However, with the appointment of chief medical examiner Charles Norris in 1918, the poison game changed forever. Together with toxicologist Alexander Gettler, the duo set the justice system on fire with their trailblazing scientific detective work, triumphing over seemingly unbeatable odds to become the pioneers of forensic chemistry and the gatekeepers of justice.
Robert Graysmith was staff cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969 when the Zodiac Killer first struck, triggering in the resolute reporter an unrelenting obsession with seeing the hooded killer brought to justice. In this gripping account of Zodiac’s eleven-month reign of terror, Graysmith reveals hundreds of bone-chilling facts from the case, including the complete text of the killer’s letters.
In the little colonial town of Salem Village, Massachusetts, two girls began to twitch, mumble, and contort their bodies into strange shapes. The doctor tried every remedy, but nothing cured the young Puritans. He grimly announced the dire diagnosis: the girls were bewitched! And then the accusations began. The riveting, true story of the victims, accused witches, crooked officials, and mass hysteria that turned a mysterious illness affecting two children into a witch hunt that took over a dozen people’s lives, and ruined hundreds more, unfolds in chilling, novelistic detail—complete with stylized black-white-and-red scratchboard illustrations.
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
In the summer of 1969, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A famous actress (and her unborn child), an heiress to a coffee fortune, a supermarket owner and his wife were among the seven victims. A thin trail of circumstances tied the murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his "family" of devoted young women and men.
An oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies after death. For two thousand years, cadavers - some willingly, some unwittingly - have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher Never Go Back PosterThe decidedly petite Tom Cruise is back in theaters this month playing the six foot, five inch, 250 pound Jack Reacher in Never Go Back, the second movie adapted from the wildly popular series of Reacher books by author Lee Child.

A former Major in the Army Military Police Corps, Reacher quit the military in his mid-thirties, and now roams the country, living on his pension, taking odd jobs, and getting invoved in dangerously violent situations, usually in service of some townspeople under the thumb of a crooked sheriff, evil drug lord, or domineering businessman. He's basically a one-man A-Team. A fantasy verison of the ultimate alpha male. He's an unbeatable fighter, smarter than all his opponents (and allies), a perfect shot with any weapon, a precision driver, and a world class detective. He sees a problem, makes a plan, saves the day, and gets out of town. He does it efficiently and always stays cool.

There are twenty books in the Jack Reacher series with a twenty-first, Night School, set for release in early November. Most follow a pretty similar formula and predicting what's going to happen next isn't too difficult. Lee Child's writing rumbles like a muscle car though and the Reacher books are hard to put down. It feels good to think about an old fashioned "good guy" traveling around punching out bad guys.

The entire series of books is available to borrow at Eisenhower and are listed below. But I'd really recommend the Reacher audiobooks, especially those read by the fantastic Dick Hill. We have the first movie, too.

One Shot (the basis of the first Jack Reacher movie)
Never Go Back (the basis of the new Jack Reacher movie)
To celebrate the new book and movie, we're giving away a bunch of advance reader copies of thrillers and mysteries sure to please Jack Reacher fans. Just visit our Facebook page and comment on our Reacher post before October 31st. If you're lucky, you'll be chosen to win a stack of books almost as tall as Tom Cruise, including The Travellers by Chris Pavone, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson, Red Platoon by Cinton Romesha, Darktown by Thomas Mullen, Out of the Blues by Trudy Nan Boyce, Foretold by Thunder by E.M. Davey, So Say the Fallen by Stuart Nevill, Duskfall by Christopher Husberg, Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton, Sinner Man by Lawrence Block, Treason by Newt Gingrich and Pete Early, Tamarack County by William Kent Krueger, Cold Silence by James Abel, Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Fris, and The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton.

Five Horrifying Books for Halloween-time

Disappearance at Devil's Rock Book CoverThe air is getting cooler and the nights longer. You know what that means: Halloween is almost here and it’s time to curl up with a book guaranteed to keep you up all night. Here, for your terrifying pleasure, are five of the scariest books written since last Halloween.
A family is shaken to its core after the mysterious disappearance of a teenage boy in this eerie tale, a blend of literary fiction, psychological suspense, and supernatural horror from the author of last year's A Head Full of Ghosts (also available as a streaming audiobook at
Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you'll find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won't want to leave. Later, you'll find that you can't.
Dahlia Dutton and her construction crew are given a last ditch job to salvage an especially tantalizing property. Ignorant of the house's history, the crew soon find themselves haunted by the secrets the house has held for nearly a century.
Jake and a woman known only as The Girlfriend are taking a drive to meet his parents at their secluded farm. But when Jake instead strands The Girlfriend at a deserted school, the story transforms into a twisted combination of unease, psychological frailty, and a look into the limitations of solitude.
Convinced that evil spirits have overtaken his daughter, a desperate father brings her to Nat Thayer, a psychiatrist in their sleepy Massachusetts town. Thayer soon realizes his patient and many other townspeople are actually being targeted by an evil force resurrected from the town's wicked history.

2015 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal

This afternoon, President Obama awarded National Medals of Arts and National Humanities Medals to two dozen artists, filmmakers, writers, actors, musicians, and other creative Americans.

With these medals, the federal government recognizes "outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts … that deepen the nation's understanding of the humanities and broadened our citizens' engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy, and other humanities subjects."

The list of honorees includes comedian and film director Mel Brooks, writer and poet Sandra Cisneros, actor Morgan Freeman, Motown record producer Berry Gordy, historian and author Ron Chernow, musician Winton Marsalis, and interviewer Terry Gross among others.

The complete list of medal winners is available at

Luke Cage

No one ever accused Marvel Comics of ignoring a fad. In 1972 one of those fads was Blaxpoitation, a film genre that Wikipedia says was "originally made specifically for an urban black audience, but (whose) appeal soon broadened across racial and ethnic lines". They're talking about Shaft, Superfly, Foxy Brown, etc. These movies were really talking off, bringing in an audience that didn't traditionally go to theaters. Marvel wanted in on the action and along came Luke Cage: Hero for Hire, the first African-American superhero to headline his own comic book series.

In the comics, Carl Lucas was in prison for a crime he didn't commit. A scientist working on recreating the same experiment that created Captain America recruited Lukas to participate. What do you know, Lucas ended up with super powers. Enhanced strength and unbreakable skin to be specific. Lucas used his new powers to escape from prison, and set himself up as a hero or hire, changing his name to Luke Cage (later adding Power Man to seem more like a legitimate superhero) and helping anyone who could pay his fee. 

Martial arts movies were hot in the 70s, too. So Marvel introduced Danny Rand, AKA Iron Fist. The son of a wealthy businessman, and inheritor of a magical, glowing right hook, Iron Fist didn't seem to have much in common with Luke Cage. But with both their comics lagging in sales, Marvel did the only thing they could. They paired the two up, creating an unlikely new comic series, Power Man and Iron Fist. These guys were a great team though, officially incorporating Heroes for Hire into a business. They lasted for a few years until their popularity waned and the series was canceled in 1986.

Jump to 2001 and Brian Michael Bendis' new series Alias, starring Jessica Jones, a one-time superhero and current private investigator whose one night stand with a reintroduced Luke Cage eventually led to one of the longest running and most realistic relationships in Marvel Comic history.

Last year, Netflix aired its terrific Jessica Jones television series. This month they'll premiere the highly anticipated spinoff based on, you guessed it, Luke Cage. The previews for the show look great. Hopefully the new series is one more in a line of well-made movies and TV shows proving that, despite Marvel's involvement, superheroes are more than just a passing fad.

Collections of the early Luke Cage stories are hard to come by, but you can place a hold on the Essential Power Man and Iron Fist Volume 1 and Volume 2. While you're at it you should take a look at Luke Cage: Avenger, a modern retelling of his origin story, and Luke Cage Noir, a reimagining of the character set in 1930's Harlem

Molly Wizenberg

On February 21st, 2016 author, podcaster, and blogger Molly Wizenberg visited the Eisenhower Public Library to discuss her New York Times Best Selling books, Delancey and A Homemade Life. She also touched on her podcast, Spilled Milk and her James Beard Award winning food blog, Orangette. An audio recording of the entire conversation is available to stream or download.
On October 2nd, our next visiting author will be mystery writer Sharon Fiffer. Registration for that conversation is open now.

The Hike by Drew Magary

The Hike Book CoverChecking into hotels late at night always feels strange. But Ben, who travels for business is used to short stays after long drives. Get in a few hours sleep, go to a meeting in the morning, and get back on the road as soon as possible. Maybe go for a walk if you have some time. Hope that things don't get too weird.
Ben's unlucky on this trip though. He finds a path behind his hotel and sets off for quick hike. Soon he meets up with a pair of killers wearing dog masks. Then a woman gives him a bag of magic beans. Then he has to fight a giant grasshopper. Then he meets a talking crab, a giantess, some skinless zombies, a winged demon, some kind of Spanish conquistador, and a bunch of dreamy hallucinations from his past. Surely everything will be alright as long as Ben stays on the path.
Like the vintage role playing games that partially inspired it The Hike is a puzzle. Every step Ben takes along the path offers clues for him to use and for the reader to put together. I'm still not sure if I really figured it all out. I suspect the book is a parable about wasting time. Don't spend hours playing video games when you could spend them with your loved ones. That's my take anyway. Maybe you'll come away with a different interpretation. Just remember, things are going to get weird.

Yoga at Hoopla

Fall is the perfect time to get your yoga practice in top form. This month, visit to stream or download all your favorite Gaiam yoga videos on your computer or mobile device. Just starting out? Try Yoga for Beginners. Or maybe Advanced Yoga is more your speed. No matter your experience level, there's a great video for you on Hoopla. Even if you're a kid!

Then, visit the Hoopla Facebook page to get entered into a drawing for a yoga workout prize package. Maybe you'll win a bamboo yoga mat and a cork yoga brick to help keep you going all winter long. Entry ends September 30th.

President Obama's Summer Reading List

Today, President Obama released his summer reading list. Read these books and, before you know it, you'll be the president. If I had to guess, I'd say you've probably read at least two of them already. You're almost halfway there.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Seveneves by Neal Stephenson.

And in case you missed it, here's what made the cut last year:

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow.

While you're working on your presidential reading assignment why not listen to the music on President Obama's summer playlists?

Obsessed with Stranger Things?

If you're anything like the rest of the world, you've probably been binge watching Stranger Things on Netflix. Set in the mid-1980s, Stranger Things tells the story of a boy whose mysterious disappearance sets off a chain of events that tear away the wholesome veneer of small-town America. While searching for answers to his disappearance, the boy's friends, his family, and the town's sheriff unveil dark government agencies and supernatural forces at work.
The show wears its 1970s and 80s influences on its sleeve, paying homage to the work of Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, Richard Donner, and other 80s luminaries throughout its eight episodes. If you've burned through the series or just want to get an idea of what all the fuss is about, here's a list of movies available to borrow at Eisenhower that are directly referenced by the show or that work with similar sci-fi and horror themes. 
If you'd love to watch Stranger Things but don't subscribe to Netflix, place a hold on one of our Roku Media Players which provide access to our Netflix account.