Category Archives: Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

This is a collection of Book, Movie, and Music reviews by the Oak Brook Library’s staff. Topics include Fiction, Non-Fiction, Comedy, Drama, Tragedy, Mystery, Science Fiction, History, Psychology, Business, Science, Self-Help, Spirituality, Religion, Philosophy, Politics, Poetry, Fantasy, Thrillers, Nature, Biography, Horror, Food, Cook Books, Travel, Young Adult, Sports, and the Classics.

July 2017

july2017coverIt’s July! Celebrate the summer and freedom with friends and family and some of our recommendations!

 

 

 

 

Michelle – Administration

whothoughtthiswasagoodideaWho thought this was a good idea? : and other questions you should have answers to when you work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco, New Nonfiction 973.932 MAS

Mastromonaco, a former White House Deputy Chief of Staff during the Obama administration, wrote this funny and interesting look behind the scenes at the White House. She shares amusing, scary and downright embarrassing stories about her time in politics, starting as an intern for Bernie Sanders, working for the Kerry campaign and then joining Obama’s administration. What makes this book different from many other political books is that it is presented from the point of view of a woman in her 30s. Reading this book makes me yearn for the Obama years!

weinerdvdWeiner, DVD 328.73 Weiner

This documentary is an examination of disgraced New York Congressman Anthony Weiner’s 2013 mayoral campaign. It is a fascinating look at the inner workings of a man who threw away his career, had a very good chance for redemption and blew it – losing everything in the process. Watching this documentary, I went the whole spectrum of feeling sorry for him to wanting to smack him upside the head. I am still amazed that someone with so much potential could keep making the same mistake over and over again!

aunitedkingdomA United Kingdom, New DVD United Kingdom

This film is based on the true love story between the future King of Botswana and a white English woman in the 1940s. It stars David Oyelowo as Seretse, who is studying in London before taking his rightful place as King and Rosamund Pike as the woman he falls in love with and through their love, they change the course of African history. Their decision to marry just as apartheid is beginning in South Africa causes an international uproar. Before seeing this movie, I was completely unaware of this story and I think it is one that people need to be familiar with. It is a beautiful story of the triumph of love and an intriguing look at race relations from the perspectives of both the English and the Africans. Oyelowo gives another great performance as a man torn between his love for his wife and his love for his people.

Pat – Circulation

walkingwiththeenemyWalking with the Enemy starring Jonas Armstrong, Hannah Tointon, and Ben Kingsley, New DVD Walking with the Enemy

Set in 1944 in Hungary and inspired by true events, this powerful drama depicts the heroic efforts of Elek Cohen, whose real name was Pinchas Rosenbaum, and many others to try and save thousands of Jews from extermination in that country during WW2.

This movie serves as a brutal reminder of the horrific acts of the Nazis and others, but also illustrates the true bravery of the men and women who took actions and resisted their evil.

It’s no Schindler’s List but a little-known WW2 story that needed to be told.

Chris – Circulation

wolvesWolves by Rise Against, New CD 781.66 Rise Against

Chicago-native punk-rockers Rise Against remain amazingly consistent with their new album Wolves. This is the eighth studio album in their almost twenty years as a band, but they are as urgent as ever. Urgency is one of the themes of the album, especially in terms of speaking out and being active. They advocate that the best time is now to let your voice be heard so issues of injustice and global harm can be resolved and not persist to a point of irreversible damage. Their political, social, and environmental message is conveyed over the typical energy of punk compositions. The first four tracks are the standouts on the album: “Wolves,” “House on Fire,” The Violence,” and “Welcome to the Breakdown.” I’ll also note that there is a parental advisory on this album for some strong language in a few songs.

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June 2017

june2017coverIt’s June! Summer is just around the corner! Grab a good read and enjoy the warm weather.

 

 

 

Michelle – Administration

fromcradletostageFrom Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars by Virginia Hanlon Grohl, New Nonfiction 920 GRO

Virginia Hanlon Grohl, mother of Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Nirvana, interviews other mothers of successful musicians and shares their stories. The mothers all have unique and interesting stories of raising children hit by the music bug, including Dr. Dre, Josh Groban, Kelly Clarkson, Mike D, Tom Morello, Adam Levine and more. The author is in a unique position to be able to relate to her subjects and she also shares her own stories of raising Dave. It is a thoughtful collection of short stories and a good read for anyone interested in today’s musical creators.

Melissa – Technical Services

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet, Fiction Burnet

hisbloodyprojectIn a search through his family history, the author uncovers some documents relating to murder trial involving one of his ancestors. Roderick Macrae is the son of a crofter living in the Highlands of Scotland in 1869 and from the outset, we know that he is on trial for murder. He is an exceptionally bright young man, and we hear his side through his written memoir. We then hear other perspectives, and learn that each is in itself unreliable. The journey of the book is motive and state of mind. What were the real reasons for the murder? Is Roderick a murdering psychopath or a man pushed beyond his limits? Did he suffer a fit of insanity or is he wholly sane? The colorful characters help bring this book to life, and at least one is based on an actual historical individual: a prison doctor who specialized in criminal psychology. My favorite aspect of “His Bloody Project” is the deft manner in which Burnet presents each side of case; each tale is perfectly rational and yet they are mutually exclusive. This book is a thrilling tour through historical Scotland that offers much more than its description as “thriller” as it touches on class conflict and preconceived biases. The book earned a much-deserved spot as a finalist for the 2016 Man Booker Prize.

Pat – Circulation

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman, Nonfiction 940.53 ACK

zookeeperswifebookWhen Germany invaded Poland, bombs devastated Warsaw, and the city’s zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonia Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen “guests” hid inside the Zabinski’s villa. They ended up saving the lives of hundreds of people.

Sometimes the text does get a bit bogged down in details but the bravery of these people is amazing and truly uplifting. A fascinating true story.

Chris – Circulation

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, New Fiction Gaiman and YA Gaiman

norsemythologyMuch like author Neil Gaiman states in his intro to Norse Mythology, my initial encounter with the Norse gods was through Marvel’s incarnation of Thor, the god of thunder. Getting myself wrapped up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and being a fan of Gaiman’s easy-to-read but intellectual writing style, I had to check out this book. His experience in the fantasy genre and his previous works about gods and mystical creatures lend him to be the perfect candidate to bring some of these ancient stories back to life in a way only he can.

This is a collection of selected Norse myths mainly involving Odin, Thor, and Loki, the three figures with the most lore remaining. The book does a great job introducing these players and revealing their quirks. Gaiman wisely begins his telling with the very beginning–the creation of the gods and the Nine Worlds. He continues with their various exploits such as how Odin lost his eye, where Thor’s hammer came from, Freya’s wedding, Thor’s journey to Jotunheim, and his fishing trip. He appropriately ends the novel with Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods. This is an excellent starting point for anyone curious about Norse mythology or anyone looking for a well-written collection of fantasy stories.

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May 2017

may2017coverIt’s May! Head outside with a good book or CD and enjoy the fresh sights and smells of the season!

 

 

Pat – Circulation

lionLion starring Dev Patel, Mara Rooney, and Nicole Kidman, New DVD Lion

Lion is the critically acclaimed movie that tells the story of a 5-year-old boy in India who gets lost on a train. It takes him thousands of miles from home. Frightened and alone, he survives on the streets until he is adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, with only his memories and Google Earth, Saroo Brierley set out to find his lost family.
It is an incredible, touching, true story–definitely worth watching. All the actors did a beautiful job.
Chris – Technical Services
hellstracesHell’s Traces: One Murder, Two Families, Thirty-three Holocaust Memorials by Victor Ripp, New Nonfiction 940.53 RIP
Victor explores the family history of the Kahans and the Ripps during the 1920’s and 1930’s and their changing lives as they move from Belarus, Poland, Germany and finally France. He travels to 6 countries and visits 35 Holocaust sites “to spark the past to life” and to understand what was behind their decisions and why did one side of the family survive and the other side did not.
One statement Victor made in regard to memorials or remembrances: “The stars have to be in alignment, all the elements have to be in place, if a memorial is to be effective-and one of those elements is the viewer.” p102
Another statement found on a memorial really struck home with me, “As you pass by, read their names, your memory is their only grave.” p.200
sleepwalkerThe Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian, New Audiobook CD Bohjalian
This bestselling author and master storyteller takes us into the world of parasomnia and a heart breaking family tragedy. A layered mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end.
Michelle – Administration
founderThe Founder starring Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, and John Carroll Lynch, New DVD Founder
This is the story of how McDonald’s “founder” Ray Kroc stole everything from the McDonald brothers to create the first and largest fast food franchise in the world. There is so much to this story that I did not know. Michael Keaton does a wonderful job portraying Kroc! The movie also stars Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch at the McDonald brothers. I can’t recommend this film enough!
Melissa – Technical Services
chronicleofadeathforetoldChronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Fiction Garcia Marquez
Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells the story of Santiago Nasar’s murder in the novella “Chronicle of a Death Foretold”. Nasar is a young man living in a small Columbian town. He attends the wedding of an extremely wealthy newcomer and his local bride. The morning after the wedding, the bride is shamefully returned to her family, and Santiago Nasar is murdered by the bride’s brothers. The murder is addressed in the very first sentence, so there is no mystery regarding its occurrence. The mystery comes in how numerous villagers knew of the impending murder but did nothing to intervene, despite having no ill feelings toward either party. Marquez gives vivid detail of the village, allowing readers to map out Nasar’s last day on earth: where we went, who he spoke with, and who knew of his fate. What makes the novella most interesting, in my opinion, is its portrayal and treatment of guilt, as well is its misdirected accountability.
Chris – Circulation

kodamaKodama by Alcest, New CD 781.66 Alcest

The latest album from blackgaze pioneers Alcest is somewhat of a return to form from their previous offering, Shelter. Known for combining the black metal and shoegaze genres, they expertly interweave walls of intense distorted guitar, delicate finger-plucked segments, harsh vocals, and melodic ethereal vocals (all in French). Kodama does away with the blast beats typical of black metal and their earlier works (a continuation from Shelter), but revives the harsh vocals absent from Shelter.

Lead vocalist/ lead guitarist Neige has said that his love of Japanese culture, specifically the anime film Princess Mononoke (J DVD Princess Mononoke), was his inspiration on Kodama. In Japanese folklore kodama are tree spirits, a prominent concept in Princess Mononoke, and appropriate subject matter for a band like Alcest. Their music is a journey to another realm, and this time the listener is whisked off to a spiritual Japan where humans and spirits collide.

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April 2017

april2017coverIt’s April! Spend a rainy day inside with some of our picks! April 9-15 is also National Library Week, so show your local library some love by stopping in for special activities!

Michelle – Administration

eyeintheskyEye in the Sky starring Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, and Alan Rickman, DVD Eye in the Sky

This fast-paced movie is an interesting look into drone warfare and the politics behind war in the electronic age. It appears to take place in mostly real-time and shows the tense conflict between ethics and military casualties. Eye in the Sky stars Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul and Alan Rickman in his final onscreen role.

silence_fallen_layout.inddSilence Fallen by Patricia Briggs, New Fiction Briggs

This is the 10th book in the Mercy Thompson series and it is still as fun to read as the first. The series follows shape-shifting coyote Mercy Thompson as she finds her way into trouble in the supernatural world and works to save herself. While she is surrounded by those more powerful, including werewolves, vampires and the fae, Mercy is an exceptional heroine who never waits to be rescued.

Chris – Technical Services

unlikelycatladyAn Unlikely Cat Lady: Feral Adventures in the Backyard Jungle by Nina Malkin, Nonfiction 636.8 MAL

A born and raised “Brooklynite” (New York) writes of her true adventures as an indoor cat lover and outdoor caretaker of a feral cat family that chooses her backyard as home base.

Chris – Circulation

Awake by Tycho, CD 781.63 TYCHO

awakeTycho is one of those bands you listen to when you just want to chill out. In a genre appropriately labeled chillwave, Tycho creates dreamy compositions using synthesizers, guitars, and other electronics. A steady and driving but not overbearing beat supports the rest of the instruments. Completely instrumental, this is a perfect soundtrack to a lazy night in with friends or a cruise down the highway after long day. Awake is Tycho’s third album, each one becoming a bit more electronic.

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March 2017

march2017coverIt’s March! Spring is coming; winter is going. Usher in the new season with some of our recommendations below.

 

 

 

Pat – Circulation

lightbetweenoceansThe Light Between Oceans starring Micahel Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, and Jack Thompson, New DVD Light Between Oceans

A young World War II veteran, Tom, numb from his years in combat, takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on a remote island. He meets, Isabel,  who is from the local town on the mainland. They are soon married and living on the island.
Their happiness is marred only by their inability to start a family. When a rowboat with a dead man and his infant daughter mysteriously washes ashore, Isabel believes their prayers may have been answered.
Tom is torn between reporting the lost child and pleasing the woman he loves, making a choice with devasting consequences.
Kilkillingtherisingsunling the Rising Sun by Bill O’Reilly, Nonfiction 940.54 O’RE
While I knew the basic facts surrounding the atomic bombs, I got a much better picture of the bloody battles, huge decisions, and historic personalities that culminated in the decision the drop the atomic bomb and brought an end to the war in the Pacific.
I feel it’s a great historical read with so much to learn from this book.

 

Angie – Reference

raininportugalpoemsThe Rain in Portugal: Poems by Billy Collins, New Nonfiction 811.54 COL

Billy Collins contributes wisdom, wit, emotion, curiosity, and his adroit use of words to over forty new poems in his first new book in three years. Most of his poems read like micro stories based on observations of everyday objects, past personal events, pets, art, travel, and loneliness— to name a few. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins is the poet to read if you are not “into poetry.” Of course, he is also a poet to read if you enjoy poetry. Fans of Charles Bukowski, Richard Brautigan, Garrison Keillor, and modern poetry will also appreciate The Rain in Portugal. Billy Collins is a skilled architect of the modern poem, and if you enjoy The Rain in Portugal, also check out Sailing Alone Around the Room (811.54 COL) by Billy Collins.

Chris – Technical Services

otherwordlyOther Wordly by Yee-Lum Mak, New Nonfiction 415 MAK

Every language has words for the odd and the wonderful. Some languages have words for feelings that we can’t quite put into words.
Beautifully illustrated, a quick read which will make you “Balter” (verb, English).

Chris – Circulation

The Bones of What You Believe by CHVRCHES, CD 781.66 CHVRCHES

bonesofwhatyoubelieveCHVRCHES is a power trio out of Glasgow, Scotland that creates catchy electropop. The Bones of What You Believe is their debut album featuring the hit single “The Mother We Share.” They have described themselves as being an alternative band that uses lots of electronics like synthesizers, keyboards, and samplers. But behind the shimmering and dreamy synths are introspective and metaphorical lyrics. This is an immediately danceable album that hooks you in with Lauren Mayberry’s seemingly sweet but powerful voice. Other highlights on the album include “We Sink,” “Gun,” “Under the Tide” (sung by keyboardist/sampler Martin Doherty), and “Recover.” If you’re wondering about the “v” in their name, they chose to use it to be more easily searchable online.

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February 2017

feb2017coverIt’s February! Let’s hope for an early spring and in the meantime enjoy the recommended titles below.

 

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

roomwithsecondbestviewThe Room with the Second Best View by Virginia Smith, New Fiction Smith

This is the third book in the delightful Goose Creek series (preceded by The Most Famous Illegal Goose Creek Parade andSirius: The Little Dog Who Almost Changed History by Jonathan Crown). In this book, Millie and Al are working on the Victorian house they bought with plans to convert it to a bed and breakfast. They aren’t planning on opening for a couple of years yet, but with their close friends Justin and Susan getting married soon, Millie has invited some of the wedding guests to stay at the house (without telling Al, of course.) When Justin’s formidable great aunt shows up three weeks before the wedding, will Al be able to survive her demands and will Justin and Susan survive her attempts to take over the wedding planning? Meanwhile, Millie and her best friend have had a falling out over preparations for the town’s 150th anniversary celebration. If you want a fun and light, feel-good read, I recommend the titles in this series. Also includes recipes.

hundredpiecesofmeA Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon, Fiction Dillon

Gina is rebuilding her life after a serious illness and divorce. She decides to simplify her life and keep the 100 things that mean the most to her. When she is landed with an underfed, frightened greyhound who has been abused, Gina, who is not a dog person and knows nothing about caring for a dog, decides to drop him off at a shelter, but as he grows on her and she sees in him another being who needs a fresh start in life, they develop a bond. The book shines a light on the abuse often suffered by greyhounds used for dog racing when they don’t perform well or get old or injured. This is a bittersweet and touching story about healing from past wounds and moving forward.

midnightplanThe Midnight Plan of the Repo Man by W. Bruce Cameron, Fiction Cameron

This mystery is loads of fun! It has humor, suspense, action, supernatural elements, romance, loyal friendships, and a cute dog. Ruddy is a former college football star down-on-his luck and now working as a repo man. When he begins to hear a voice speaking to him, he fears he is losing his mind. But it turns out to be the voice of a murdered man named Alan who wants Ruddy to help him bring his killers to justice. Throw in a good-looking but dim-witted best friend, a sister trying to keep the family business afloat, her harebrained new boyfriend, and the daughter of the murdered man, for whom Ruddy falls hard, and you have a laugh-out-loud supernatural mystery that will keep you compulsively reading until the final page. The lead and supporting characters are a delight and you root for them to succeed as they get into one jam after another.

ordinarygraceOrdinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, Fiction Krueger

Touching and beautifully written, this is a gripping coming-of-age novel about tragic loss and finding hope in the aftermath of such loss. The events of the summer of 1961, when Frank Drum was 13 years old and living along the Minnesota River with his parents, older sister, and younger brother, changed all their lives. Frank tells his story 40 years later, looking back at that fateful summer. It was a summer filled with tragedy, beginning with the death of a boy hit by a train and followed by more personal losses for Frank and his family. Though suffering great loss, the family also experienced small miracles that summer that brought healing to their broken lives.

gooddogGood Dog: True Stories of Love, Loss, and Loyalty edited by David DiBenedetto, Nonfiction 636.7 Dib

Celebrating the special place dogs hold in our hearts, this is a collection of over 50 essays, by turns funny and moving, written by a multitude of noted authors about dogs that have touched their lives. Each dog is unique and special in his or her own way, with quirky personality traits, yet all the essays have one thing in common: the love the authors have for their dogs and how that love was returned wholly and unconditionally.

Pat – Circulation

sullySully starring Tom Hanks, New DVD Sully

On January 15, 2009, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed a U.S. Airways jet with 155 passengers and crew in the middle of the Hudson River in New York City after Flight 1549 was struck by a flock of Canadian geese seconds after takeoff from La Guardia Airport. He saved all aboard and became a hero around the world.

Sully is portrayed by Tom Hanks, who is brilliant, and in every role he plays he is fully committed. The story itself also provides some interesting insight into the event. Clint Eastwood does a good job of making a story we already think we know interesting. Definitely enjoyed it and thought it worth seeing.

Chris – Circulation

Image result for loveless my bloody valentineLoveless by My Bloody Valentine, CD 781.66 MY BLOODY VALENTINE

With the theme of Valentine’s Day comes Loveless by My Bloody Valentine, but for those who may be less fortunate in this area. This album is heralded as the definitive shoegaze album by both critics and fans. Originating in the late 1980s, shoegaze is a subgenre of alternative rock that got its name from the performance style of of the artists-they often get enveloped in their own world and just gaze down at their shoes instead of the crowd. That being said, this is a very personal style that the listener can get lost in especially with headphones. My Bloody Valentine piles layers upon layers of guitar effects and distortion in their production, burying the vocals underneath and in effect giving them a dreamlike quality. This style is in full effect on Loveless, thus why the album has become synonymous with shoegaze.

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January 2017

january2017coverIt’s January! Start off the new year by reading some good books!

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

andeverymorningAnd Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman, New Fiction Backman

From the author of the beloved A Man Called Ove comes another tender story about love, family, and loss that will touch your heart. This is a novella of under 100 pages that is told in a dream-like state: you need to read it all the way through before it will all make sense and then you will want to go back and re-read certain parts to absorb the wisdom. The book opens with an elderly man and his young grandson sitting on a bench in a town square. Each day, the square gets smaller. As you read, you realize that the bench and the square are a metaphor and we are really inside the man’s brain: he is beginning to suffer from dementia and he is looking back on his life, trying to cling to each precious memory before it is lost. The book touches on the man’s relationship with his son, his grandson, and his late wife of more than 50 years. There are touching moments when he remembers himself and his wife together when they were young and when he talks to his wife in the present, trying to come to terms with the loss of his memories, his regret over his difficult relationship with his son, and how to explain to his adored grandson that he will lose his grandfather before he is actually gone due to the dementia. Heart-breaking but beautiful, this story brings home the realization that at the end of a life, what matters the most is your relationships with your loved ones. The greatest gift we can leave behind is to be loved and remembered.

youhadmeatwoofYou Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam, Nonfiction 636.7 Kla

This is a very funny, heartfelt book about how adopting a Boston terrier named Otto helped the author mature and find fulfillment in her life. Before Otto, she was in a rut in her professional life and also thought she would never find love, but caring for him and sharing her life with him gave her the courage to try new things and also taught her that she could compromise in a relationship. Single when she got Otto, she was married and expecting her daughter when he passed away. She also discovered her true calling as a writer during her time with him. She later became involved in dog rescue, which, along with her marriage and child, gave her life purpose and meaning. She relates her experiences with rescue: some hilarious, some heart-breaking, and some that make you angry at people’s cruelty or life’s unfairness. A wonderful story of one woman’s life with dogs and how every dog is special and unique and leaves his or her own mark on our hearts. (By the way, the incredibly adorable dog on the cover is Otto.)

siriusSirius: The Little Dog Who Almost Changed History by Jonathan Crown, New Fiction Crown

This book offers a light take on a dark subject. It is an alternate history, putting a dog named Sirius in the midst of some of the darkest events of the 20th century. Sirius is a charming fox terrier belonging to a Jewish family in 1938 Berlin. Sirius’s family is lucky enough to escape Germany shortly after Kristallnacht. Through a connection with the actor Peter Lorre, they immigrate to Hollywood where Carl, the head of the family, works for Jack Warner, of Warner Brothers. Sirius becomes a famous movie star and hobnobs with the likes of Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart until a mix-up separates him from his family and sends him back to Berlin, where he ends up the lap dog of Hitler himself and plays a role in the downfall of the Third Reich. Whimsical and absurdist, this is an entertaining book that is ultimately about the love and dedication of family.

Chris – Technical Services

rocketgirlsRise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt, Nonfiction 629.407 Hol

The women of NASA, this overlooked group of American women, these female scientists, finally get their story told. Inspiring…a hidden history of our race to space. An easy read for a very complicated subject.

 

borntorunBorn to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall, Nonfiction 796.425 McD

I don’t even like running or am a fan and I loved this book. What a bunch of crazy characters! Students of running or anthropology will want to read this book.

 

Dagmar – Circulation

devouredDevoured: From Chicken Wings to Kale Smoothies – How What We Eat Defines Who We Are by Sophie Egan, New Nonfiction 394.12 Ega

This is an interesting book to read, especially after consuming all the holiday food and in conjunction with our New Year’s resolutions. Except, as I learned from the book, those resolutions don’t really start until after the Super Bowl. The book, written by a food writer and Culinary Institute of America director, has been called “a provocative look at how and what Americans eat and why.” Egan takes us for an eye-opening journey about American food culture and examines our changing eating habits – the good as well as the bad ones. The author puts together facts from food science and psychology and creates a powerful yet entertaining and engaging look at diverse food in America. There is a chapter for everyone – it does not matter if you are a curious cook, casual eater, or student of food marketing and psychology. The book is both very entertaining and highly informative. She talks about the phenomenon of sad office lunches and about our obsession with the latest trends (low-fat, organic, gluten free, etc.) My favorite was a very insightful chapter on Democratization of Wine in which the author explores the role that Trader Joe’s played on changes to the American food market. Thank you, Trader Joe’s!

Chris –  Circulation

fireflyJoss Whedon’s Firefly. The Complete Series starring Nathan Fillion, DVD Firefly

Before he was crime novelist Richard Castle in ABC’s Castle, Nathan Fillion portrayed space pirate Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly. Shrewd and clever, he is willing to do whatever it takes to survive on the edges of civilization. The best way to describe this short-lived show is space western–it’s what you would get if you set a western in the future. Mal assembles a crew aboard his aging Firefly-class ship, Serenity, and unintentionally develops a fondness for them he never thought possible. This crew is portrayed by Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite, Adam Baldwin (not related to the other Baldwin brothers), Sean Maher, Summer Glau, and the late Ron Glass. Critically acclaimed and a cult classic, it unfortunately fell victim to its episodes being aired out of order and thus confusing audiences. This collection contains every episode that aired (in the proper order) plus three more that never saw broadcast television, a total of fourteen. I highly recommend this series to anyone interested in sci-fi. The pilot is a bit slow, but if you continue on, it only gets better. For closure, creator Joss Whedon reassembled the crew for 2005’s feature film, Serenity.

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December

dec2016newcoverIt’s December!  Celebrate the holiday season with your loved ones and enjoy the recommended titles below.

 

 

Sue – Circulation

breakfastattiffanysBreakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories by Truman Capote, Fiction Capote

This collection includes “A Christmas Memory,” a beautiful short story set in the early 1930’s that tells of Truman Capote’s tender and loving relationship with Sook Faulk, a distant cousin of his. Capote spent his early childhood in Monroeville, Alabama, with four cousins – three sisters and their brother, while his parents were divorcing and fighting over custody. Sook was more than 50 years older than Capote and simple-minded. The two developed a strong relationship that greatly influenced Capote. The story tells of the last Christmas they spent together before Capote was sent off to school. It is written in an enchanting, evocative language that gives you a feel for the time and place and shows you how deeply Capote and Sook bonded and really captures their personalities. The story describes Capote and Sook’s experiences during the Christmas season, including gathering the ingredients for their annual fruitcake baking, flying kites, cutting down a Christmas tree and decorating it with homemade ornaments, exchanging homemade gifts at Christmas, and generally supporting one another against life’s injustices, as they were both considered misfits in society. It is a touching story that will leave you feeling warm and cozy. Sook is such a loving and gentle woman with an innocence and kindness that makes me wish I could have known her in real life. It is a perfect story for reading aloud each Christmas. There are two other stories Capote wrote about his life with Sook, not included in this volume, but worthy of reading: “One Christmas” and “A Thanksgiving Visitor.”

shepherdangelThe Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry, Fiction Barry

This short novel is laugh-out-loud funny in parts and also tender and nostalgic. The book is narrated by Doug Barnes, a junior high student in 1960, and it revolves around his church’s annual Christmas pageant. This year Doug is playing a shepherd. He and his buddies enjoy pulling pranks that drive the director of the play crazy. His little brother and sister are playing angels in the pageant and Judy, the girl Doug has a crush on, is playing Mary this year. This Christmas season has been somewhat melancholy for the Barnes family because their beloved dog, Frank, is elderly and is not doing well. On the night of the pageant, a series of events come together to create happy endings all around. A warm, feel-good Christmas read.

missreadchristmasMiss Read’s Christmas: Village Christmas and The Christmas Mouse by Miss Read, Fiction Read

Miss Read (the pen name of Dora Saint) wrote two charming, old-fashioned series about English country life: The Fairacre series and the Thrush Green series. These two novels are part of the Fairacre series and are published in one volume as a special Christmas edition. In Village Christmas, the conservative residents of Fairacre are not as welcoming as they could be to a new family in the village: Mrs. Emery, her husband, and their three young daughters. Mrs. Emery dresses flamboyantly and is too familiar according to the older residents of the village. But then something happens on Christmas Day that brings the village together and acceptance of the Emery family. In The Christmas Mouse, Mrs. Berry lives with her widowed daughter and two granddaughters. Late on Christmas Eve, she receives two unexpected visitors. Mrs. Berry’s actions towards these two intruders exemplify the Christmas spirit in this gentle read.

Melissa – Technical Services

mistletoepromiseThe Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans, Fiction Evans

In order to combat the loneliness and questions that come with being single during the holidays, two work associates agree to accompany each other as boyfriend and girlfriend to holiday events. They draw up a contract that details what is to be expected, and the contract ends on Christmas Day with no strings attached or hard feelings. As the two get to know each other, however, they find that not only do they enjoy each other’s company, but that this unusual agreement may have brought together two people who understand each other as no one else can.

jamestaylorchristmasJames Taylor at Christmas by James Taylor, CD 781.72 Taylor

Call me crazy, but Christmas music is lovely to listen to all year round. Christmas music inspires the warmth and generosity of the holiday season, and I see no reason to delegate such wonderful attributes to only one-twelfth of the year. That said, James Taylor’s holiday album is simple and sincere, smooth and endearing.

Chris – Technical Services

rememberRemember starring Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau, New DVD Remember

Remember is a movie I will not soon forget. It stars two well know elder actors, Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau, as Auschwitz survivors looking for revenge and retribution.

 

Dagmar – Circulation

skippingchristmasSkipping Christmas by John Grisham, Fiction Grisham

With the upcoming holiday season upon us, many may have mixed feelings about all the fuss that is often associated with Christmas. Especially if you are a new empty nester like Luther and Nora Krank. Their only child, 23-year-old daughter Blair, fresh from graduate school, was inspired to dedicate the next two years of her life helping others. Her assignment with the Peace Corps took her to Lima, Peru. This was the first time in her young and sheltered life she would spend Christmas away from home. This was quite hard on all of them, especially on her mother Nora. The father, trying to come up with a solution, decided to skip Christmas that dreadful year altogether. No need to shop in crowded malls for unwanted presents, no big annual party, not even a Christmas tree. The decision was made to sail on December 25th on a Caribbean cruise instead. It was a good plan, but, as the Kranks later discovered, it was not that simple to follow through. Skipping Christmas was much harder to do and had many more consequences than they had previously imagined. The story, which is now being hailed as the new modern Christmas classic, offers a “hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that have become part of our holiday tradition.”

youwantitdarkerYou Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen, New CD 781.63 Cohen

On October 17th, the New Yorker published a lengthy article, “Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker,” celebrating Leonard Cohen’s 82nd birthday and his latest album, You Want It Darker. Cohen, who is known for such iconic songs as Hallelujah, If It Be Your Will, and Suzanne, made his last recording already quite ill. As he put it, his situation was bleak and the discomfort acute. His son Adam sensed that Cohen’s “recovery, if not survival, was dependent on …getting back to work.” The new record opens with the title track, You Want It Darker, and in the chorus, the singer declares: “Hineni, Hineni, I’m ready my Lord.”
Hineni, as I later learned, is Hebrew for “Here I am,” Abraham’s answer to the summons of God to sacrifice his son Isaac. According to the New Yorker, “the song is clearly an announcement of the readiness, a man at the end preparing for his service and devotion.” Leonard Cohen died the following month in November 2016.

Chris – Circulation

doctorwhoDoctor Who, The Complete First Series starring Christopher Eccleston, DVD Dr. Who 2005- Season 1

The British television staple Doctor Who was fully revived in 2005 after being canceled in 1989 and spawning a TV movie in 1996. This time around, Christopher Eccleston portrays the Doctor (the ninth iteration of the character). He brings an intensity and brooding nature to the role, appropriate to the plot and themes of the show, along with the signature whimsicality of the Doctor. The Doctor is a time-traveling alien (who just looks like a human) that stumbles into enemy plots to change the course of history or take over the universe. Some are just out to stop his meddling. But being the last of his kind and traveling through the whole of space and time can get lonely. So he comes to Earth and chooses a worthy companion, Rose Tyler, a shop girl from London, to travel with him and reveal the wonders and perils of the universe to her. A science fiction classic, Doctor Who is made for the whole family, though it can get a bit scary for the younger viewers. The Doctor is always ready to teach a life lesson in humanitarianism, compassion, empathy, and the power of well-reasoned thought over violence. Jump aboard the TARDIS and take a trip to Victorian Cardiff, London, in 1941, the present day, the near future, and the end of the world.

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November

November2016It’s November! Be thankful for all the good in your life and enjoy the recommendations below.

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

biglittlelifeA Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog by Dean Koontz, Nonfiction 636.7 Koo

Novelist Dean Koontz’s tribute to his first dog, a very intelligent golden retriever named Trixie. Trixie was trained as a service dog before being adopted by Koontz and his wife after being retired early from service due to elbow surgery. Koontz was enchanted by Trixie’s joyful spirit. She opened his heart to the wonder of the world and made him a better person grateful for the small moments of life. The book details how Trixie came into the Koontz family’s life and some of their experiences together until her death due to natural causes.

Koontz is a real champion of dogs and an amazing dog parent. He has great respect for dogs’ intelligence and their emotional depth and sensitivity and no patience for people who believe dogs are stupid or don’t think or feel. Of course, no one who has ever loved a dog would for a moment believe dogs aren’t sentient or intelligent.

Koontz speaks of the characteristics of dogs that he admires and that we should strive to achieve more of in our lives, including loyalty, unfailing love, humbleness, a sense of wonder, forgiveness, and gratitude. Trixie taught him to cherish your loved ones while you have them so you’ll have precious memories when they are gone and to be aware of the wonder of everyday moments. You can feel the love Koontz has for this dog and dogs as a whole and what a remarkable dog Trixie was. A lovely tribute to Trixie and to the beautiful nature of all dogs told with life-affirming warmth and humor.

naturalvetguideThe Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs by Dr. Shawn Messonnier, Nonfiction 637.7 Mes

Dogs get cancer the same as people and often the same factors are involved, including an unhealthy diet and over-exposure to chemicals. This book is written for the layman by a vet who specializes in nutritional oncology. It discusses holistic approaches to both treating and preventing cancer in dogs. Nothing can 100% prevent cancer, but there are steps you can take to minimize your dog’s risk. Dr. Messonnier suggests such measures as: feeding a healthy diet – he recommends a homemade diet or a high quality processed food, no chemicals or by-products; don’t over-vaccinate – vaccines are important, but most vaccines last for several years at least, so annual vaccination is an unnecessary tax on your dog’s immune system. Instead, do a titer test to determine that antibodies exist in your dog’s system against the disease, then you know a vaccine is not necessary again; minimize exposure to chemicals – use natural flea control, avoid drugs if there is a natural alternative; i.e. glucosamine instead of Rimadyl or NSAIDS, use natural products to clean your house, and do not put chemicals on your lawn where your dog regularly plays; prevent other illnesses through a healthy lifestyle, as well as preventative measures such as spaying/neutering, using heartworm preventative, etc; and visit your vet regularly and include annual blood work.

For dogs diagnosed with cancer, Dr. Messonnier suggests all of the above, stressing no vaccinations and a healthy diet, combined with a program of conventional and complementary therapies. Conventional therapies include: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Complementary therapies may include: nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, acupuncture, homeopathy and homotoxicology, and chiropractic. The doctor warns that dog caregivers should not self-treat: herbal remedies can be dangerous if taken in improper quantities or combined with certain drugs. Make sure a qualified vet oversees your dog’s treatment. The book also includes appendixes, references, and an index.

ripperstreetRipper Street starring Matthew Macfadyen, New DVD Ripper, Season 1

Set shortly after the Jack the Ripper murders ended, this is a gritty, compelling series about the detectives of Whitechapel Division. DI Edmund Reid is a decent man charged with keeping peace in this poor and violent area of East London. He is assisted by his sergeant, Drake, and a drunken American surgeon, Jackson. Reid is haunted both by the death of his daughter and his failure to solve the Ripper case. The main characters are strong and they grow and develop as the series continues. The series has aired four seasons. The fifth season, which will air in 2017, will be the final season.

nightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, New Fiction Hannah

This is a beautifully told story of two sisters in occupied France during World War II. Vianne has a young daughter and fears for her husband at the front. She just wants to get through the war and get her life back. This becomes more complicated when a Wehrmacht captain requisitions her home and moves in. Meanwhile, Vianne’s younger sister Isabelle rebels against the Vichy government and secretly joins the Resistance. Both women are forced to make desperate choices to survive as the war goes on; both are heroic in their own way. The book is very moving, showing the sacrifices people made for the war effort and for each other in a terrible time in history.

Jette – Shelving

envyEnvy by Sandra Brown, Fiction Brown

Wow – what a thriller with all the twists and turns of a great suspense novel! It’s a love story, yet a revenge story and a book within a book! It will keep you wanting to go on whether you have the time or not…a must read. The book is strictly for adults, not for religious people or people under age 21, due to its language and scintillating innuendos. Brown outdoes James Patterson here.

Hubbell – Circulation

piratehuntersPirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson, Nonfiction 910.9163 or New CD 910.9163 (audiobook)

John Chatterton is a renowned deep sea diver, wreck explorer, and History Channel TV host known for famously discovering and identifying a sunken German U-boat on the eastern American seaboard. John Mattera is a scuba enthusiast, former celebrity bodyguard, and an experienced deep sea wreck explorer himself. Together, they set out to track and find perhaps the most legendary pirate wreck in history. Joseph Bannister was a British merchant captain who went renegade during the so-called Golden Age of Piracy in the colonial Caribbean. He managed to escape a death sentence in then-British Jamaica before finally being killed when his ship, The Golden Fleece, was finally found and bombarded by English frigates. Kurson’s engaging book blends history with the thrill of treasure hunting and tells the story of Chatterton and Mattera’s epic journey to finally find the wreck. In addition to Mother Nature, the crew had to work against government interference from the Dominican Republic, competitor dive groups, island drug runners, and malfunctioning equipment.

Dagmar – Circulation

houseinpragueThe House in Prague: How a Stolen House Helped an Immigrant Girl Find Her Way Home by Anna Nessy Perlberg, Nonfiction 940.53 Per

This is a delightful memoir of Anna Nessy Perlberg, a long-time Chicago resident and widow of the late poet Mark Perlberg. In her book, Anna remembers the cherished house and the family it sheltered; she also explores the true meaning of home. We meet Anna’s mother, the fabulous opera singer Julia Nessy, her prominent lawyer father Pavel Beacher, as well as a loving circle of extended family and friends. In part One, “The Early Years: 1930 – 1945,” we learn stories about the family holidays, special visitors, and country summers, but also about the confusion and fear, about the Nazi invasion of Prague, about the consequent family escape and their voyage to America. The family is starting a new life in New York and a 10-year-old homesick Anna is trying to find her way in the new country. She struggles to become an American in a city “teaming with immigrants and prejudice.”

In Part Two, “Remembrance and Return: 1945 – 2012,” post-war life brings stories of the family reunion when a few family members who survived the Holocaust were able to join them in the USA. There is also love and marriage. During her graduate work at Columbia, Anna meets a fellow student Mark Perlberg who falls in love with her passion for politics and her “foreignness.” Even the rough dark bread sandwiches that Anna brings from home are so different that his family’s soft white bread. Soon afterwards Mark and Anna marry, and she follows him, first to Tokyo and later, in 1956 to Chicago, where Mark is working for Time magazine, covering business and the arts. In Chicago, their two daughters are born and the Pelbergs lead a full family life, rich with friends, journalism, poetry, and politics. Mark helps to establish The Poetry Center of Chicago and serves at its first president. The story, however, ends where it began – in the house. Anna saw the house where she was born after nearly forty years. She went to see it again for the first time during the Communist regime and was not allowed into the house. After the Velvet Revolution, when things in Czechoslovakia changed so rapidly, Anna and her brothers decide to sue for the return of their family home. After a long legal battle, full of “restitution issues,” the house once again belonged to the Baecher family. But now what? Restoring and keeping the house in Prague would be very expensive; Mark gets sick, eventually passing in 2008. In 2012, Anna made the last return to Prague and to the house. Once again, it is necessary to say goodbye to the house. However, this house has given her the Czech roots, her spirit. It will always be a part of her, that house in Prague. Or so she says.

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October

October2016It’s October! Enjoy trick or treating, bonfires, falling leaves, apple cider, and all the other great things about fall and check out the recommended titles below.

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

weareallmadeofstarsWe Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman, New Fiction Coleman

This is a beautiful book, sad in parts, but ultimately uplifting and inspiring. It tells the story of two women: Stella and Hope. Stella is a nurse working at a rehabilitation and hospice center. Since her husband, a solider, returned from duty with a serious injury, their marriage has been in crisis. Hope is a young woman with cystic fibrosis recovering from a life-threatening infection at the center. Knowing that her life expectancy is limited because of her disease, Hope has been afraid to live fully and is isolated and sheltered. Both of these women are at a crossroads in their lives and have to decide how to live going forward. Each character narrates her own chapters. Secondary characters are Grace, a dying patient of Stella’s with a secret, and Hugh, a man who has a connection to the center that is revealed as the story goes on. One aspect of the book that I found especially moving was the inclusion of letters written by Stella for patients who are nearing the end of their lives, interspersed throughout the book. They mainly either express regret over actions taken or not taken by the writers or ask their loved ones to go on living and be happy once they are gone. The letters are extremely touching and really get down to the gist of what makes our lives whole.

leavinglucy

Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon, New Fiction Solomon

In 1917, teenager Beatrice, the daughter of well-to-do Jewish parents in Massachusetts, becomes pregnant after an encounter with a naval officer introduced to her by her mother. Not wanting to leave the baby to an orphanage, Beatrice instead abandons the baby in her uncle’s pear orchard, where unknown persons steal their harvest each year. Beatrice watches as the pear thieves discover and take the baby. Ten years later, Beatrice’s grief over her loss has frozen her in time, wiped away her aspirations, and kept her in a state of depression. She flunked out of college, she stopped playing the piano, though a gifted pianist, and she chose to marry a homosexual man in a marriage of convenience. Now living with her Uncle Ira, whose health is declining, Beatrice hires Emma, the wife of a local fisherman and mother of nine children, to nurse Ira. Unbeknownst to Beatrice, Emma is the woman who took in Beatrice’s baby, now a ten-year-old called Lucy Pear. Meeting Emma is the beginning of taking away Beatrice’s inertia and freeing her to move forward, while Emma’s life also changes due to her meeting Lucy’s birth mother. This is an absorbing novel, filled with the honest emotions of strong characters who face difficult life choices and live with the consequences, and who find the strength to move on from past mistakes and make new lives for themselves.

turnTurn Washington’s Spies starring Jamie Bell, New DVD Turn, Seasons 1 and 2

This is a Revolutionary War drama inspired by the book Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose that details a spy ring that fed information about Redcoat troop movements to General Washington during the war. The main characters are four friends who grew up together in Long Island: Abraham, a cabbage farmer with a wife and young son, Ben, an officer in the Continental Army, Caleb, also in the Continental Army, serving under Ben, and Anna, Abraham’s former fiance, now married to another man and running a tavern in their hometown. The show begins slowly, setting up the characters and background information, and builds momentum as the series goes on.

Most of the main characters are based upon real people, but historical facts have been significantly changed for dramatic purposes, so don’t expect the show to be historically accurate, but it is exciting and entertaining. And it may prompt people to learn more about the historical people portrayed in the series. The show is filmed in Virginia. It is well-made with strong production values. Seasons 1-3 have aired on AMC and it has been announced that Season 4, to be aired in 2017, will be the final season.

Chris – Technical Services

beyondthecallBeyond the Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot’s Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front by Lee Trimble with Jeremy Dronfield, New Nonfiction 940.54 Tri

The story of Captain Robert Trimble (Lee’s father), a distinguished flyer in WWII who was sent on a mission to recover POWs in Poland near the end of WWII. Another story of heroism from all those years ago, that might not have been told. Fascinating and heartbreaking.

Michelle – Administration

savingSaving Hope starring Erica Durance, DVD Saving Hope, Seasons 1 and 2

Saving Hope is a Canadian TV drama that is part Grey’s Anatomy and part Ghost Whisperer. The show stars Michael Shanks as Dr. Charlie Harris, the chief of surgery who ends up in a coma after a car accident, Erica Durance as Dr. Alex Reid, Charlie’s fiancée and fellow surgeon, and Daniel Gillies as Dr. Joel Goran, Alex’s former boyfriend and Charlie’s replacement at the hospital. In the first season, Saving Hope follows the lives of these main doctors, as well as their co-workers and patients. Charlie, in his comatose state, is able to communicate with other patients who are also in a coma or have recently passed. Alex tries to juggle caring for Charlie and her patients, while also dealing with the reappearance of Joel in her life. It is a fun twist on the average medical drama that has kept me intrigued well into season three.

Hubbell – Circulation

zeitounZeitoun by Dave Eggers, Nonfiction 921 Zeitoun Egg

Zeitoun is a true account of one man’s experiences in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Zeitoun is Syrian immigrant Abdulrahman Zeitoun, who owned a painting business with his wife in New Orleans. After the flooding, Zeitoun canoed about the city, distributing any resources he had and rescuing survivors. In a twist of fate, Zeitoun was arrested by national guard officers and subsequently jailed without a trial or medical attention for close to 30 days. In the meantime, his property, where he had been taken into custody, was left unlocked and unsecured by the authorities and was subsequently looted and damaged. David Eggers’ account of Zeitoun’s awful experience puts 9/11 anti-Islam sentiment against the backdrop of the worst natural disaster in American history.

Chris – Circulation

community

Community, The Complete First Season starring Joel McHale and Chevy Chase, DVD Community, Season 1

Welcome to Greendale Community College where you’re already accepted! Make some new friends in Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), the recently unemployed lawyer; Annie Edison (Alison Brie), the studious recent high school grad who has a knack for perfection; Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), your source for anything related to pop culture; Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs), the bumbling activist; Troy Barnes (Donald Glover), the former high school football star that got injured; Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown), the religious optimist that you don’t want to mess with; and Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase), the inheritor of Hawthorne Industries. Your Spanish teacher, Ben Chang (Ken Jeong), is only slightly ahead of the class in his lessons. Ian Duncan (John Oliver) will be your apathetic psychology professor. Finally, Craig Pelton (Jim Rash) is your dance, costume, and event-loving dean.

Throughout the first season of this highly-acclaimed but ultimately unfortunate sitcom, you will celebrate all of the holidays and zany school promotional events in a way that only Greendale can. The script is smartly written, packed with subtle, and not so subtle, jokes. It helps to be up on pop culture to understand some of the more subtle ones, but isn’t necessary to have a good time watching the show. Community is described as being very “meta,” meaning it knows it is a TV show, but goes along with it and the tropes anyway. Loaded with gags as well as Easter eggs, this show is worth a second viewing to catch even more. Season 1 gets better with every episode, exploring relationships and real-life crises mixed in with the humor. Community has a lot of heart, so maybe it will capture yours.

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