Welcome to the second edition of Fast Five!
Fast Five is a new feature modeled on the Wall Street Journal’s book column “Five Best” and the website Five Books. Fast Five will highlight five similarly themed titles available in Saunders Family Library. You can check out the first edition of the series here. Feedback and recommendations are always welcome. Thanks for reading!
Today’s Fast Five: 2018 National Book Award Nominees, Finalists, and Winners
The “Oscars of the book world” took place last Wednesday night – the National Book Foundation announced the 2018 National Book Award winners. Five winning titles in five categories, each from a longlist of ten works winnowed to five finalists. You can see all the titles at the National Book Foundation’s website and will likely encounter them again on one of the “best books” lists that close out the year. Vox also has a nice survey of the 25 finalists.
Here are five nominees and winners in SFL’s collection.
From the publisher: “Fans of Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina, and Jason Reynolds will fall hard for this astonishing New York Times-bestselling novel-in-verse by an award-winning slam poet, about an Afro-Latina heroine who tells her story with blazing words and powerful truth.”
Readers looking to explore the novels-in-verse genre might start with Book Riot’s list of “100 Must-Read YA Books in Verse.” It’s two years old but a great survey of this popular genre. This list from Epic Reads is more recent and features The Poet X as well as titles from genre stalwarts Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander.
From the publisher: “Elegiac and searching, The Friend is both a meditation on loss and a celebration of human-canine devotion.”
Read more about The Friend at the author’s website. Watch Sigrid Nunez discuss her life and writing process in a short video interview for the New York Foundation for the Arts. Listen to an interview with the author on WBUR Boston’s Here & Now.
3. Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (FINALIST – Young People’s Literature)
From the publisher: “Hey, Kiddo is a profoundly important memoir about growing up in a family grappling with addiction, and finding the art that helps you survive.”
Jarrett J. Krosoczka is the author of the immensely popular Jedi Academy and Lunch Lady series of books. Visit his website. Krosoczka discusses Hey, Kiddo with Terry Gross on this recent episode of Fresh Air and in this interview at Comics Beat.
4. Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh (FINALIST – Non-Fiction)
From the publisher: “An essential read for our times: an eye-opening memoir of working-class poverty in America that will deepen our understanding of the ways in which class shapes our country.”
5. The Boatbuilder by Daniel Gumbiner (LONGLIST – Fiction)
From the publisher: “Written in gleaming prose, this is a story about resilience, community, and what it takes to win back your soul.”
Welcome to the first edition of Fast Five!
Fast Five is a new feature modeled on the Wall Street Journal’s book column “Five Best” and the website Five Books. Fast Five will highlight five similarly themed titles available in Saunders Family Library. Feedback and recommendations are always welcome.
Today’s Fast Five: New Science & Nature Non-Fiction!
1. The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Century by Deborah Blum
From the publisher: “From Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times-bestselling author Deborah Blum, the dramatic true story of how food was made safe in the United States and the heroes, led by the inimitable Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, who fought for change”
Listen to a recent NPR interview with Blum discussing the book and the days before basic food safety protections here.
2. Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II by Liza Munday
From the publisher: “The award-winning national bestseller about the American women who secretly served as codebreakers during World War II–a “prodigiously researched and engrossing” (New York Times) book that “shines a light on a hidden chapter of American history” (Denver Post).”
Visit the Liza Munday’s website to learn more about the author, her work, and the fascinating story of the “Code Girls.” I found this recruitment brochure in the Code Girls gallery and wondered if any graduates of the Collegiate School for Girls in the City of Richmond might have been “Code Girls.”
3. The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age by David E. Sanger
From the publisher: “The Perfect Weapon is the startling inside story of how the rise of cyberweapons transformed geopolitics like nothing since the invention of the atomic bomb. Cheap to acquire, easy to deny, and usable for a variety of malicious purposes—from crippling infrastructure to sowing discord and doubt—cyber is now the weapon of choice for democracies, dictators, and terrorists.”
4. The Promise of the Grand Canyon: John Wesley Powell’s Perilous Journey and His Vision for the American West by John F. Ross
From the publisher: “A timely, thrilling account of a man who, as an explorer, dared to lead the first successful expedition down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon–and, as an American visionary, waged a bitterly-contested campaign for environmental sustainability in the American West.”
You can learn more about John F. Ross here and read more of his writing on John Wesley Powell here. Take a virtual tour of Grand Canyon National Park at the National Park Service website and at Google Arts & Culture.
5. Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking
A library is about the people who come into it as well as the materials it holds in the collection.
It’s that time of year when books start returning to the library. We love it when books find readers, and we love to see what interests our community. In the “old days” a school library might be measured by how many books were checked out, but we don’t see it that way any more. It matters to us that we have a library of inclusion, something here to surprise those who browse the shelves. We’re not counting what you check out; we’re pleased by seeing how finding a book you didn’t expect delights you.
You might have noticed that we don’t even have a conventional book drop in the Saunders Family Library, and there’s a reason we don’t have that big hulking box which catches your book as you drop it through the slot. We like to talk with students and teachers when you return material. That’s the way we get to know more about what interests you. We believe that what interests you deserves a place on the shelves, and if it intrigues you, it will intrigue someone else.
Today I looked at the titles waiting to be reshelved and was astonished by the diversity of interests and the obstinate curiosity of students and teachers in the Upper School. And that’s how we view the Saunders Library–as a space that welcomes and celebrates these qualities. The people who enter through our doors matter to the intellectual and emotional well-being of Collegiate. This is your library.
Right now, waiting to be reshelved, you’ll find:
The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World by Jeff Goodell. This title was on numerous best science books of 2017 lists, and just one sentence from the text explains why. “Sea-level rise is one of the central facts of our time, as real as gravity,” Goodell writes. “It will reshape our world in ways most of us can only dimly imagine.”
Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle that Set Them Free by Hector Tobar. Many of us remember the harrowing story of these men who were buried for 69 days in a collapsed Chilean mine in 2010. The world watched as the days ticked by, but to really understand their story as a physical, emotional, and spiritual journey, it takes a writer like Hector Tobar.
Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion by Robert Gordon. This is a complicated story of social history, the civil rights movement, and Memphis. And you know the soundtrack. You’ve got these songs in your head and in your heart: Soul Man; Hold On, I’m Coming; In the Midnight Hour; These Arms of Mine; and I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.
And there are the memoirs with their beauty in truth telling.
The poet Gregory Pardlo brings his ferocious perspective to Air Traffic, his memoir of fatherhood, addiction, race, and ambition. There’s the incredible Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White by Lila Quintero Weaver. There is no other graphic novel that gives the reader a glimpse of what it was like being a Latina girl in the Jim Crow South, struggling to understand a foreign country and the cruelty of prejudice.
Power by Naomi Alderman is fascinating speculative fiction. She asks a “turn the world upside down question.” What would happen in a conventional society if the roles of men and women were flipped, so that women were the aggressors? Then there’s the post-apocalyptic world of Borne by Jeff VenderMeer and Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves, her debut novel which was one of only four by Americans nominated for the Man Booker Prize longlist.
If you ever had any question about whether we are a fascinating community of individuals, one look at the books waiting to be reshelved will dispel the doubt. We’ve always known that in the Saunders Family Library.
Usually we spend a lot of time reading book reviews in professional journals like Library Journal, School Library Journal, and Booklist, but there’s a lot of satisfaction in perusing the book shelves and reading the blurbs and descriptions on dust jackets. There are always surprises to be found. Especially in Chop Suey.
Here’s what we picked up:
Atlas Obscura collects curious and unusual destinations and happenings around the world. This book is a collection of some of their oddest, wonderful places around the world.
All things Richmond and food from Sauer’s seasonings and Sally Bell’s to lunch counter sit-ins and
This book has nothing to do with the Netflix show Stranger Things. Or does it? Perhaps the Duffer brothers are huge fans of Kelly Link. Maybe this 2001 short story collection inspired them just as much as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. If you’re unfamiliar with Kelly Link, you should remedy that soon.
Leigh Calvez does for owls what Sy Montgomery did for octopuses. Calvez sheds new light and perspective on these mysterious, amazing animals.
And have you seen the owl gifs on the Internet?! GAH!
Michael Branch takes us through his adventures in the hostile environs of the Great Basin Desert in Nevada. Branch is a humorist, environmentalist, and captivating storyteller.
Talk about the Virginia State Penitentiary may not make for the best Thanksgiving, but the history of the prison, which sat along Belvidere, Spring, and 2nd Streets, is interesting all the same. The penitentiary was demolished in the early 90s.
The puppet workshop started out with these peepers by Tobey Ford.
Look closely at the hands of these teachers. See those peepers. Also, did you know how hard it is to keep one’s hand and arm raised like this?
Team work! These three practice Bunraku, a traditional form of Japanese puppetry with a head puppeteer, a left puppeteer, and a third puppeteer operating the feet.
This marionette horse is part of the Naked Puppet exhibit where you can see and touch puppets to better understand how they work. The marionette is by Kurt and Kathy Hunter. It’s a replica of a horse by Albrecht Roser.
Puppets are really simple machines.
Did you know that there are things called found object puppets? These are puppets made from objects like tea kettles, vases and brooms, or dowel rods and milk jugs.
This adorable bush baby was the star of the show. His eyes are made from orange ping pong balls with glass marbles smushed (and hot glued) in.
But it wasn’t the only handsome puppet in attendance.
(the legs for this elephant are made from slinkies and lids to peanut butter!)
This chicken kind of stole the show too. Also, I’m sorry for shooting vertically.
We delved into shadow puppets as well. They’re quick, versatile, and will give you a reason to hang out to that overhead projector if you still have one.
We also learned about crankies. What you see below is the back side of a crankie. The background moves with the cranking of a handle suggesting movement or the passing of time. Check out Manual Cinema for amazing examples of shadow puppetry.
Here is Ms. Cunningham demoing the crankie. She has a neutral face, because the person cranking can be a part of the story. He/she can remain neutral (like Ms. Cunningham), or perhaps they could be dressed as a character from or related to the story.
On the floor on the left is a toy theater. I didn’t get a good picture of that, but here’s a song about it!
- It has an arch
- It’s miniature
- It’s made of paper
- And it’s flat
- YOU CAN DO IT YOURSELF
Don’t forget that part.
If you want to get started on some puppets of your own, check out the following (in the Saunders Family Library):
Eileen Blumenthal’s Puppetry: A World History
David Currell’s Shadow Puppets & Shadow Play
David Wisniewski’s World of Shadow: Teaching with Shadow Puppetry
There are eight more school days until Thanksgiving break. Eight. More. School. Days.
What are you going to do with those wonderful days off besides stuff your face? Maybe, just maybe, you’ll think about those days in middle school when you dashed into Reed Gumenick Library desperate for a good book.
I don’t mean to brag, but we do have the most interesting collection of books for upper school students and teachers this side of Mooreland Road.
You might as well breeze in, browse, and take a few things home with you now so that you don’t find yourself stuck with just your Instagram, Snapchat, and Flappy Golf over the upcoming holiday weekend.
It’s not too soon to prepare.
Imagine it: You’re returning home from school. By your front door you see a package from Amazon. It feels like your birthday! You have a package! Everything is going your way. “What could it be?” You wonder. You rip through the packing tape, and there it is. The special thing you ordered.
We get to experience that delight often here in the library. Sometimes the delivery is a total disappointment (office supplies…),
but usually the delivery brings an assortment of hand-picked treasures (i.e. books). And with each book comes the possibility that you have found the gateway to your next epiphany, the source of your next guffaw, the reason why you went through that entire box of tissues.
Without further ado, take a look at some of the contents of our most recent delivery.
The Grip of It is here just in time for October, THE month for horror and thrillers. This experimental novel compared frequently to Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves is the story of a young couple and their haunting new home.
Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult (or even as a young adult, I bet) revisits classics like Charlotte’s Web, Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, and more. Have you read Goodnight Moon recently? Go back and take another look. It’s poetry! What do we get out of these children’s classics when we go back and read them with more experience?
The First Tour de France: Sixty Cyclists and Nineteen Days of Daring on the Road to Paris chronicles the beginnings of the Tour de France, which was not at all glamorous. Amateur cyclists and their 35-pound bikes were rounded up to race the hills and substandard roads of France.
The Solace of Trees follows an orphan from Bosnia as he seeks refuge in the United States. However, the impacts of September 11th, 2001 touch the boy and his adoptive family in unimagined ways.
Significant Zero: Heroes, Villains, and the Fight for Art and Soul in Video Games is a behind-the-scenes look into what it takes to make video games today.
The Raqqa Diaries: Escape from “Islamic State” is the first hand account of a young man who shared his experiences of being in Raqqa as ISIS infiltrated the city. The book began with broadcasts on BBC’s Radio4’s Today program.
Four high school seniors wait and watch as an asteroid makes its way toward Earth in We All Looked Up.
Rebecca Entel’s debut novel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, is set at a Caribbean resort, which was once a former slave plantation. Myrna, a maid at the resort, explores the plantation’s ruins by night. “…Entel explores what it means to colonize and be colonized, to trespass and be trespassed upon, to be wounded and to heal.” (That’s from the back of the book).
Which one(s) would you like to read?
Tyler Boyd, inquisitive Latin teacher, breezed through the library this morning with book in hand. “You know what the problem is?” He asked. “There are too many books, and not enough time to read them.”
It’s true. So true.
But maybe we can find a few minutes here and there to get into a good book. Something we don’t have to read because we’re required to read it.
There’s so much out there to learn about.
Tammy Dunn in the technology department reads two books a week (at least. TWO. BOOKS. A. WEEK. How does she do it? She’s reworked those wasted moments spent on Facebook or Twitter.
We know that not all of those moments on the internets is wasted time.
We don’t judge here.
The point is that we have a lot of new, amazing books, and it may be worth your time browsing. Maybe check one out. Put it in your backpack for those 10-minute breaks here and there. A 25-minute extra help/clubs period (if you don’t have extra help or a club to attend0 is a great time to get some reading done on the reading porch.
There’s just so much out there.