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This week’s staff pick is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Six stories in one that follow the same reincarnated souls through time, this novel is wildly inventive.  The first part may seem a bit slow, but once you get to the second story, the novel takes off.  A wild, complicated ride that’s well worth the effort, this novel also inspired the movie starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry.  Our staffer highly recommends this, or one of Mitchell’s other works – like The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, a historical novel where once you finish the first part, the story explodes into soap opera worthy drama and high stakes. Psst- The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet would count for your book that takes place in Asia for the Read Harder Challenge.

“Cloud Atlas begins in 1850 with Adam Ewing, an American notary voyaging from the Chatham Isles to his home in California. Along the way, Ewing is befriended by a physician, Dr. Goose, who begins to treat him for a rare species of brain parasite. . . . Abruptly, the action jumps to Belgium in 1931, where Robert Frobisher, a disinherited bisexual composer, contrives his way into the household of an infirm maestro who has a beguiling wife and a nubile daughter. . . . From there we jump to the West Coast in the 1970s and a troubled reporter named Luisa Rey, who stumbles upon a web of corporate greed and murder that threatens to claim her life. . . . And onward, with dazzling virtuosity, to an inglorious present-day England; to a Korean superstate of the near future where neocapitalism has run amok; and, finally, to a postapocalyptic Iron Age Hawaii in the last days of history.

But the story doesn’t end even there. The narrative then boomerangs back through centuries and space, returning by the same route, in reverse, to its starting point. Along the way, Mitchell reveals how his disparate characters connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.

As wild as a videogame, as mysterious as a Zen koan, Cloud Atlas is an unforgettable tour de force that, like its incomparable author, has transcended its cult classic status to become a worldwide phenomenon.” Taken from Goodreads.com


Cloud Atlas: A Novel

David Mitchell

Published: Nov 20, 2012 by Modern Library
Find in the Library


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It’s the end of April and we’re a quarter through the year already!  We hope you’re joining us in our 2015 Read Harder Challenge (flyers at Circulation and Reference), where we are challenging ourselves and you by reading books based on place, author, subject, etc.  Why? Because we’re stretching out of our reading comfort zones and trying some new things.

Don’t know where to start? We offer a variety of reading recommendations:

– Staff Pick Bookmarks (located at the Circulation and Reference desks) These change frequently and are always stocked

– Staff Pick of the Week : blog post and added to our Facebook album (one for 2014 and one for 2015) and Pinterest page

– This challenge has a support group on Goodreads.com where you can get reading suggestions for each category, and tell others what you think

-Check out our Pinterest Book Recommendations board – we’ve posted tons of lists of all kinds. There is definitely something you’ll love here!

-We have a book recommendation page where you can get newsletters on your favorite types of books sent straight to your email

It’s never to late to start, and anything you’ve already read this year that fits into a category counts! Join us in diversifying our reading, and check out some new books today.

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The incomparable Maya Angelou is this week’s Poet of the Week (in honor of National Poetry Month).  She’s been a staff pick before, and she absolutely deserves to be again.  An American author, activist, poet, dancer, actress, and singer, she published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years.  She was a truly impressive woman, and her writing is beautiful.

You can find out more about her poetry in particular, here.  We recommend The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, which collects her poetry through 1994.   (You can find it at: FDC 811 ANG)

Check out one of her many titles, you can see what’s available in the catalog.

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For this week’s National Poetry Month Poet-themed staff pick of the week, we are highlighting 3 prominent and very different poets.  One is the widely acclaimed Shel Silverstein, the immortal bard William Shakespeare, and the popular children’s poet Jack Prelutsky.

Silverstein is well known for his children’s poetry collections A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends.  You can check out these and some of his other works here.

We’re pretty sure that everyone has read at least one piece of Shakespeare’s work, or at least seen one of the many, many movies based on his work.  The Bard really needs no introduction, so we’ll just connect you to our catalog.

You may or may not know Jack Prelutsky, who writes wonderful children’s poetry like Tyrannosaurus Was a Beast.  He’s quite prolific and we have quite a few of his works in the library.

We hope you enjoy these poets of the week!  We’ll leave you with this:

Where the Sidewalk Ends

from the book “Where the Sidewalk Ends” (1974)

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
and before the street begins,
and there the grass grows soft and white,
and there the sun burns crimson bright,
and there the moon-bird rests from his flight
to cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
and the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
we shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow
and watch where the chalk-white arrows go
to the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
and we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
for the children, they mark, and the children, they know,
the place where the sidewalk ends.

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It’s National Poetry Month, and who better to be the poet of the week then one of the most popular poets in America.  Billy Collins has said about his poetry that it is “suburban, it’s domestic, it’s middle class, and it’s sort of unashamedly that.” Accessible, delightful, and celebrating and mourning the highs and lows of everyday life, we encourage you to give one of his poetry anthologies a try.

Check out what’s available in our catalog.

Here’s a favorite poem, for a sample of his work:

Marginalia

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O’Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive –
‘Nonsense.’ ‘Please! ‘ ‘HA! ! ‘ –
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
why wrote ‘Don’t be a ninny’
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.

Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls ‘Metaphor’ next to a stanza of Eliot’s.
Another notes the presence of ‘Irony’
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.

Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths.
‘Absolutely,’ they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
‘Yes.’ ‘Bull’s-eye.’ ‘My man! ‘
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.

And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written ‘Man vs. Nature’
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.

We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.

Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird signing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.

And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake’s furious scribbling.

Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents’ living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page

A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
‘Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.’

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