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Tales from Gombe

ISBN: 
9781770854680

If you’re fascinated by some of our closest animal relatives, the chimpanzee, this delightful collection of photographs will delight and inspire you.

Gombe National Park in Tanzania is where Richard Leakey and Jane Goodall first studied these fascinating primates over fifty years ago. 

The married photographer pair, Shah and Rogers, made many trips over a period of ten plus years to the park. What makes this book special is to see how individual chimps changed over the years, from babyhood to young adult, to young adult to mature, from mature to old.

The photos show the chimps doing daily activities, hunting, food-gathering eating, grooming, nursing and taking care of their young, even displaying as powerful males and females do to show who is boss and on top of the hierarchy.

What I liked most were the family portraits, a line of chimps in a row, siblings and one or both parents.

For many years, scientists have named all the chimps in one family with names beginning with the same consonants for instance: Frodo, Freud, Fanni, Flossi, Faustino, etc. Representing the G family are Galahad, Gaia, Gizmo, and Google, among others.

It’s amazing how distinct the chimp’s faces are, just as distinct as those of humans.  Also, how intelligent and expressive their eyes are.  The book’s text describes the struggle for power in each community and how certain chimps are loners, while others go off and join other communities.

It also describes how they help each other, how siblings look after their younger family members, how even adults stay close to their parents.

Several photos document tool use by chimps, including the famous termite-foraging with long grasses that Dr. Goodall first discovered in November, 1960 that amazed scientists around the world.

This is a very beautiful book that will also fill you in on some of the latest chimp research in Gombe.  For more on Goodall’s fascinating work and life, try Jane Goodall: a Twentieth Century Life by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen.

Great Bear Wild: Dispatches from a Northern Rainforest

ISBN: 
9781771640459

If one area of our continent calls to me more than any other it’s the Northwest, that region of coastal rain forests that extends from northern California to Alaska. 

This magnificent book of photographs covers one of the few unspoiled areas left there, the Great Bear Rainforest.

It’s located on the mainland slightly north of Vancouver and extends past Prince Rupert to the border with Alaska. Talk about wild: salmon, bear, wolves, sea lions, great Douglas firs and hundred-year-old cedars all thrive there.

Ian McAllister, who lives nearby and works as an ecologist, has taken many incredible photographs of the wildlife and the plants.  He also photographed the native people, including a few of the matriarchs of the Gitga’at clan.

The photos are thrilling including some of spirit bears—a bear I was not familiar with. They are white black bears (yes, that’s right) produced by a recessive gene. They are not albinos, so a spirit bear could have black-furred bear mother and siblings. Francis Kermode, a museum curator, first named them.

The chapter on sea wolves shows how tough making a daily living is for the wolves who have bred on this coastal area for centuries.  They must swim between islands to find food, and one young male, ostracized by his family is shown swimming away from all that he has known after his family boots him away because they cannot feed him.

In one charming photo, tens of curious stellar sea lion bob on the Pacific’s surface—only their heads showing. They stare straight at the photographer. McAllister reports that these wonderfully intelligent and agile creatures are making a comeback in the waters off the Great Bear.

If you’ve ever seen the starfish in the Northwest, you know that these echinoderms are huge and often bright orange. McAllister also takes incredible photographs of colorful underwater creatures: purple urchins and striking rose anemones. Some interesting shots focus on both above-water and below-water life in the same shot.

Like many pristine landscapes left in the world, McAllister reports that the area of the Great Bear Rainforest is under threat from oil drilling. Additionally, there are plans to create a large port in seas that are often stormy and dangerous. This motivated McAllister to publish these beautiful photographs. But the text of the book also provides much information about the creatures of the region. Read more »

While You're Waiting for The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is one of our most requested books.  While you're waiting to get your hands on a copy why not try one of these books featuring women facing intense relationship problems and unreliable narrators struggling with memory problems.

 

the silent wifeThe Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

Jody, a go with the flow psychotherapist and Todd, a professional renovator and serial philanderer have been together for 20 years before Todd drops a bombshell: he’s gotten his old friend’s daughter pregnant and is leaving Jody. Jody, furious her world is crashing down around her will do anything to get her life with Todd back- but does anything include murder for hire?

Audiobook also available through Hoopla and the Ebook is available through 3m Cloud

  Read more »

The Girl on the Train

ISBN: 
9781594634123

One of the things I miss from my East Coast childhood is riding commuter trains.

There is something about the feeling of time being suspended as you lean against the window and watch the world flow past: houses, schools, playgrounds, rivers, cars and those glimpses of people passing ordinary days. After reading this British thriller, I will never look at trains the same way again.

A young woman, Rachel, just past the bloom of youth, rides trains into London every weekday: the 8:04 a.m. into town and the 5:56 p.m. return. Every evening she drinks too much—small bottles of wine or canned mixed drinks.

One particular neighborhood--where the train slows for a crossing--captures Rachel’s complete attention.  In one of the backyards she often spots a young glamorous couple, whom she doesn’t know at all, but she names them Justin and Jess. She often sees Justin coming out to the garden with a mug of coffee or tea for his wife, and they exchange endearments.

Rachel even invents careers for them, a private life. Jess works in the arts, and Justin does something with computers. Meanwhile, Rachel’s career and married life have taken a horrible slide.

Her husband, Tom, left her for another woman, Anna.  He’s not only left her but then had a child with Anna after Rachel tried and failed for years to have a family with him. To make matters even worse, Tom and Anna live in the same house, Rachel shared with Tom. Guess where it’s located?  Yes, just off the railroad tracks, a few yards down from that of the fabled couple, Justin and Jess.

Even though Rachel has no reason to ride the train every day she continues. Now she goes to the library and works on her CV. But her drinking gets worse and worse. She calls, texts, and emails her ex constantly, driving Anna crazy.  Her landlady throws her out of the apartment after she has left a major mess once too often.

Then one morning, a different man joins Jess in the garden. At first Rachel thinks: a brother, a cousin, her husband’s friend. But no, he kisses Jess tenderly as the train slows at its normal spot.

Soon someone is murdered in one of the houses just off the tracks. The problem: Rachel got off the train that night and wandered through the train tunnel.  She was soused and cannot piece together what happened.  So many details were lost to the fog of alcohol. Also, someone hurt her that night. But whom?

This riveting book will keep you turning the pages. My advice: don’t start it on a week night unless you have an open calendar the next day. The characters, the story, the unexpected twists, will keep you guessing and enthralled.

Orphan Train

ISBN: 
9780061950728

I had a personal connection to this novel because my mom was raised as an orphan in Chicago. Luckily, she never had to experience adoptions or sharing foster homes with unloving parents but she did start out on her own at age sixteen working as a salesgirl in the Chicago Loop.

This touching intertwined story of two orphans: one contemporary and one from depression era days, was a quick and touching read. It begins with Goth-looking Molly, a young, half-Native America girl from Maine who just got busted for stealing a book from the public library.  Really? Well not every detail in a novel has to be 100% authentic.   

In case you’re curious, Molly took the third and the most beaten-up copy of Jane Eyre. Read more »

Once in the West

ISBN: 
9780374227012

Several best poetry lists of the year include this seventh title by Christian Wiman, former editor of the well-renowned Poetry Magazine, who now teaches at Yale Divinity School.

His interest in theology and his experience as a person with a terminal disease bring a unique focus to his writing as these lines attest: “A soul / extrapolated // from the body’s / need // needs a body / of loss.”  In another poem “The Preacher Addresses the Seminarians” he shows the power of the right words to hone in, “I tell you some Sundays even the children’s sermon / --maybe especially this—sharks your gut // like a bite of tin some beer-guzzling goat / either drunkenly or mistakenly decides to sample.”  

As he did in his memoir My Bright Abyss about life after a bone marrow transplant, Wiman dives deep. There is no surface skimming for him.  Several poems celebrate his Read more »

I Was Here

ImageI Was Here is the newest book from Gayle Forman, the author of If I Stay. This story follows Cody, a recent high school graduate who is stuck in her small town, cleaning houses, and attending community college. Her life has always revolved around her best friend, Meg. Meg, who's family is Cody's family. Meg, who has moved far away for school. Meg, who has just committed suicide.

Read more »

Things I Should Have Told...Memoirs and Biographies in Honor of Black History Month

Pearl CleageThings I Should Have Told My Daughter by Pearl Cleage

After rediscovering boxes full of old journals, Pearl Cleage’s daughter suggests burning them.  Instead, the poet, author and civil rights activist chose diary excerpts from 1970-1988 and combined with little context them to form Things I Should Have Told My Daughter.  This candid memoir addresses Cleage’s struggle against racism and sexism, as well as her problematic relationship with her husband Georgia politician Michael Lomax, and her role as speech writer of Atlanta’s first black mayor, Maynard Jackson.

Read more »

Deep Down Dark

ISBN: 
9780374280604

Even though I knew the ending before I opened this book, this in-depth, emotionally and factually rich story of 33 miners trapped under the earth for sixty-nine days was a real thriller.

The book opens with a photograph of the 33 men who survived two months deep underground. Thirty-two were from Chile, and there was one young miner from Bolivia who had the amazingly bad luck to be stuck in a mine collapse on his very first day of work.

In his fourth book, journalist Tobar presents not only the San Jose mine but an overview of modern Chilean life. He begins with a rich description of many of the miners and their families, some of whom travelled almost the whole length of Chile for their jobs. Read more »

2015 Alex Award Winners

On Monday, the American Library Association announced the winners for their Youth Media Awards categories.   One of the awards, the Alex Awards, highlights ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. The winning titles are selected from the previous year's publishing. We’ve highlighted four of the titles, but you can see the full list of award winners and nominees here.

 

Bingo's RunBingo’s Run by James A. Levine.

Bingo is the fastest runner in all of Nairobi-drug runner, this is.  For several years Bingo has gotten away with trafficking illegal substances in and around a luxury resort, mostly because he looks far younger than his 15 years and he can fly under the radar.  Until he witnesses a murder and is sent to live at an orphanage and subsequently adopted by an American Woman who challenges his sense of morality. Darkly humorous, this compelling novel draws on African Folklore.

 

 

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir

While part of a mission to Mars, astronaut Mark Whatney gets separated from his team by a dust storm on the red planet and is assumed dead.  The team begins their return to Earth, but Whatney is alive and alone on Mars-with little supplies and no communication devices.  Think Gravity meets Survivor.  Read it before the movie comes out in November.

 

 

 

Terrorist's SonThe Terrorist’s Son: A Story of Choice,” by Zak Ebrahim with Jeff Giles

When Zak Ebrahim was 12 years old when his father was sent to prison for shooting and killing the leader of the Jewish Defense League.  During that prison sentence Ebrahim’s father helped plan the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center.  This memoir is an important piece in the terrorism discussion and demonstrates that hate is always a choice-and so is tolerance.

 

 

Those Who Wish Me DeadThose Who Wish Me Dead,” by Michael Koryta

After 13 year old Jace witnesses a murder and narrowly escapes from the murderers himself.  The authorities send him to wilderness/survival training camp/witness protection program under an assumed identity to keep him safe until the murderers are caught.  What the authorities didn’t count on was the murderers infiltrating the program looking for Jace! Written by Bloomington’s Michael Koryta.

 

 

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