Brief Biographies for Non-Fiction Readers

The CPL collection includes short biographies on major historical figures.  The Penguin Lives Series from publisher Penguin Random House is an innovative series that pairs celebrated writers with famous individuals who have shaped our thinking.  The broad and diverse subjects of these biographies come from around the world and from all walks of life.

Here is the complete list of the 28 ‘mini-biographies’ owned by the library:

Abraham Lincoln by Thomas Keneally
Andy Warhol by Wayne Koetenbaum
Branch Rickey by Jimmy Breslin
Buddha by Karen Armstrong
Crazy Horse by Larry McMurtry
Dante by R.W.B. Lewis
Elvis Presley by Bobbie Ann Mason
Frank Lloyd Wright by Ada Louise Huxtable
George Herbert Walker Bush by Tom Wicker
Herman Melville by Elizabeth Hardwick
Jane Austen by Carol Shields
Joan of Arc by Mary Gorden
Joseph Smith by Robert V. Remini
Julia Child by Laura Shapiro
Leonardo da Vinci by Sherwin B. Nuland
Mao Zedong by Jonathan Spence
Marcel Proust by Edmund White
Martin Luther by Martin Marty
Martin Luther King, Jr. by Marshall Frady
Mozart by Peter Gay
Napoleon by Paul Johnson
Pope John XXIII by Thomas Cahill
Robert E. Lee by Roy Blount, Jr.
Rosa Parks by Douglas Brinkley
Saint Augustine by Gary Wills
Simone Weil by Francine du Plessix Gray
Winston Churchill by John Keegan
Woodrow Wilson by Louis Auchincloss

They can be found on the Lower Level in the Biography section.

Dog Days of Summer

How our four-legged friends amuse, instruct, and inspire us! Many dog owners have been sufficiently inspired to write books dedicated to their canine companions, and their stories appeal to dog-people and non-dog-people alike. The bond between humans and their dogs is complex and unique, the power of an animal’s ability to change lives is uplifting and hopeful – a perfect combination for summer reading.

Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride

Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley is a funny and interesting biographical graphic novel about Lucy’s relationship with her boyfriend, John, and their wedding. This book takes you through how they met in college, moved in together, broke up, dated other people for three years, then abruptly became engaged.

Then, it takes you through a year of a DIY wedding. DIY: decorations (ALL the decorations), music playlist, ties for the men in the wedding party, photo booth, personalized gifts for every single guest, personalized gifts for everyone in the wedding party, and the list goes on. What they could not do themselves they worked out as cheaply as possible: a wedding dress that was on sale (it had pockets!), a backyard barn built for the occasion, and a friend of the family to cater everything.

There is also plenty of wedding stress. Lucy’s mother had her own list of guests to invite that mostly consisted of people who were strangers to Lucy and John, and it was longer than Lucy and John’s list of guests. The mother-of-the-bride also kept insisting on other things such as hiring a wedding planner without consulting the bride and groom, changing the size of the intended barn which forced the couple to remove guests from their invitation list, a band instead of their DIY playlist, and her badly-behaved dog walking down the aisle at the wedding. As Lucy and John worked through all of this stress, Lucy also reflected on what weddings used to be, what they have become, what marrying a man means for her bisexuality, and what she wants most in a marriage.

Genre: Non-fiction graphic novel

Setting: Most of the story takes place in modern-day Chicago and New York state.

Number of pages: 291

Is this good for a book club? Yes, if the club is willing to read a graphic novel. This book contains a lot of good discussion material about an important cultural milestone. It is also very quick to read, despite the number of pages.

Themes: The history of weddings, the modern wedding industry’s influence on what people think weddings are supposed to be (and what they are supposed to cost), how weddings can negatively impact people who are not heterosexual, what it means to have a good marriage, different types of relationships, and how wedding stress can bring out the worst in people.

Objectionable content: Suggestive themes, sexuality, and alcohol.

Can children read this? Teenagers would enjoy this.

Who would like this? Anyone who is preparing for their own wedding, preparing for someone else’s wedding, has gone through a wedding, thinks weddings are overrated, thinks weddings are wonderful, or enjoys examining the wedding industry.

Rating: Five stars

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Brief Histories of Everyday Objects

Brief Histories of Everyday Objects by Andy Warner is a hilarious non-fiction graphic novel that describes how many of the items that we take for granted have interesting, unusual, and sometimes downright silly origins. The author guessed when it came down to deciding what people looked like and what they said (unless they were quoted), but the facts are all true! Once you read this book, you will never look at the things you use on a daily basis in the same way again. The next time you go to a party, you’ll be able to tell people about the story behind the pull tabs on their soda cans.

Did you know that the woman who invented flat-bottomed paper grocery bags had to fight for her right to the patent when a man tried to steal it? She became the first woman to win a patent lawsuit.

Did you know that Earl Tupper invented Tupperware, but Brownie Wise made it sell? In fact, she was so successful that she became the face of the product. This greatly angered Mr. Tupper, so he fired her, sold the company, and purchased an island where he lived for the rest of his life.

Did you know that postcards were the results of an elaborate prank?

Did you know that roller skates were first invented in 1760 when John Joseph Merlin, a prolific inventor, built a pair so he could show off at a masquerade?

Genre: Non-fiction graphic novel

Setting: All over the world, throughout different times

Is this good for a book club? Only if the book club is interested in discussing previously unknown facts regarding everyday things.

How long is the book? 206 pages

Objectionable content? Barely. There are some references to bathing, bras, excrement, and violence, but there is nothing explicit. There are some illustrations of women wearing sports bras.

Can children read this? The humor and information are enjoyable for all ages, as long as they have a good vocabulary.

Who would like this? Anyone with a good sense of humor and a good appreciation for learning about how everyday objects were created.

Rating: Five stars

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My BEA Wishlist – New Books I Can’t Wait to Read

I recently attended Book Expo America, an annual conference for booksellers, librarians, and others in the book industry. Held in New York City at a giant convention center, it’s a book lovers’ wonderland of authors and publishers showcasing their upcoming books. For someone like myself who rates authors right up their with rock stars, it’s an intense couple of days of fangirling and serious listmaking of new books that I simple MUST READ! Some of these just came out recently, some are due out later in the year, all look awesome. Let me spread the wealth by sharing a few so you can put them on your list:

Children’s Books:

YA Books:

Adult Books:

Many of these books are listed in our catalog and can be placed on hold right away, some of them are too new to be in our catalog yet, but will be soon!