Welcome to the Shalimar Library - Proudly serving members since 1996








Paul Newman

The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man

A Memoir


 Memoirs are read because individuals portray the human story in such varying ways.  In this book about Paul Newman, the dichotomy between the famous, adored actor and the insecure, questioning man is difficult to surmount.  Over five years in the writing, Newman, his family, friends and colleagues made themselves available for thousands of hours of interviews.  The only condition Newman insisted upon was truth – from himself and all others.  That truth becomes difficult for him at times when vulnerabilities, embarrassing scenes, hurtful encounters, and painful memories surface.  However, to his credit, he faces them in an effort to understand himself more and to be a better father to his children.  Seeing his movies after reading the book will provide a depth to understanding to the characters that you have come to think of as Paul Newman.


Actor (stage & film) -- Husband (twice) -- Professional race car driver
Academy Award Winner -- Father (six times) -- Investor -- Political Activist -- Humanitarian
Business Man -- Son -- Guinness Book of Records enlistee -- Philanthropist -- Grandfather





Toni Morrison


“Recitatif” is a small book with a big idea.  Even the title causes questions and defines the thinking process to be found throughout this book.  It is the only short story that Morrison ever wrote and she did it with experimental purpose.  As the story of two young girls begins, the reader is aware that they are of two races but is unsure which is white and which is black.  Morrison blends the individual characteristics, speech patterns, life styles and perceptions of each to the point that just when you think you “know” you become unsure again.   It becomes difficult because there is a struggle about how to identify with each character.  As a result, Morrison’s goal is to get the reader to consider justice, opportunities and recognition when the race is unknown.



Life on the Mississippi

An Epic American Adventure

Rinker Buck


Whether you are a history buff or an armchair adventurer, you can’t help but enjoy the telling of this river trip down the Mississippi River.  Rinker Buck rebuilds a flatboat in order to recreate some of the 1800’s era river travel experience.  Hiring a carpenter unfamiliar with being on the water, putting together an eclectic crew of mismatches and having very little skill in maneuvering a boat in river traffic himself provides the background for his six month journey down river from Elizabeth, PA to New Orleans, LA.  It is thoroughly researched citing sources through the years.  The history that he learns along the way, the adventures he experiences and the character of the people that he meets will strengthen his belief in his country and himself.


“I stood on the shoulders of the historic chroniclers who passed the same space more than two centuries earlier teaching myself that the past is often for more valuable to know than the present.”

                                                                             Rinker Bunk




Switchboard Soldiers
Jennifer Chiaverini


In preparing for America’s role in WWI, General Pershing was aware of the scarcity of communication equipment and personnel in France which would be essential to a successful Allied outcome for the war.  He wanted top of the line equipment and the most efficient, courteous, trust worthy operators available.   In 1917 that meant young, American women who, at that time, were not allowed to enlist or vote.  Working with telephone companies, the U.S. Army Signal Corp. began to recruit volunteers.  Besides excelling at their job, the operators had to be able to speak/translate French fluently and be considered a leader in their field; trusted, ready to follow orders, endure hardships, be morally/socially above reproach and available for the duration of the war.  In spite of these difficult standards, hundreds of women across the country applied for the privilege to serve and began training.  After two years these women had connected twenty-six million calls from the battlefront to points all over France, which contributed greatly to the Allied victory.  Little is known about these amazing women and their role in the Great War.  This book provides needed information and appreciation for what can only be construed as historic efforts on their countries behalf.  Though much was owed them, their efforts benefitted those to come more than it ever did the “Switchboard Soldiers”.


“In serving their country, the valiant switchboard soldiers of the Women’s Telephone Unit broke down barriers and cleared the way for generations of women who would follow after, not only in the military, but in all aspects of public and professional life,”

                           Jennifer Chiaverini



Olive Kitteridge

Elizabeth Strout


Have you ever visited a favorite book from your past that, like an old friend, meets your needs at the time?  You reread the book curious as to whether the lessons learned from it are still there for you.  So it is with “Olive Kitteridge”, a book filled with the varied lives of an entire community with one character interwined throughout their stories.  True enough to life that every event is filled with sadness, joy, frustration, hope, shame, judgment and, most of all, glimmers of improving for a better life.  You may recognize someone from your family, your community or, even, yourself at times.  Elizabeth Strout delivers the humanity of these people so that you come to appreciate that they are doing the best that they can, given their circumstances; a lesson for us all no matter how old the story.



The Last Days of John Lennon

James Patterson

Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge


1957 Liverpool, England

As a music-crazed seventeen year old, John Lennon is convinced that he is destined to produce the best music ever heard in England.  He begins the process of discovering the top talents that can make this happen.  In St. Peter’s church hall he is introduced to fifteen year old Paul McCartney.  There is an instant connection that will remain throughout their lives.  Later, McCartney brings in George Harrison who, still later, will bring in Ringo Starr.  The first time the group plays together; there is recognition of alignment.  They are boys enjoying experimenting with music and life.  They find a direction that will lead them to heights throughout the world that they never imagined as a group called the “Beatles”!  In the following years as they are working out their style and their message, there is someone out there working equally hard to destroy them.  Patterson weaves this duality of progress and destruction throughout the book. The last days of 1980 are particularly mesmerizing.  Just as Lennon is at the top of his game, so is his protagonist.  The Beatles, particularly John Lennon, were so much more than their music.  Their influence, philanthropy and music live on, as do the memories.





Isabel Allende


Once again Allende combines history and philosophy as she tells a  fictional story of a woman living in South America from 1920-2020,  The woman, Violeta, is born in one flu epidemic and dies, one hundred years later, in another.  Issues of political corruption, war, earthquakes, women’s voting rights, abortion, class distinctions – all play a part in Violeta’s life.  Written as a letter to her grandson, Violeta attempts to put family and civic history in writing so that he may one day understand his past.  Allende’s story telling skills and her passion for her subject are evident throughout the story.  Like Violeta, the reader becomes aware of the need for justice, valuing meaningful work and, always staying connected with those that you love.



Finding Me

Viola Davis


Viola Davis, may be a name that sounds familiar but is difficult to place.  She is an actress who dedicated her life to getting out of the poverty of her birth and becoming “somebody”.  Viola Davis pulls no punches as she describes the reality of her world; growing up black, female and impoverished.  Her drive to find herself in a society that was determined to define her, makes a story that is well worth the read.  So focused on first, survival, and then excellence that she finds herself as an adult alone and adrift, in spite of the attained commercial success for which she had fought so hard.  As an adult, Viola Davis uses her new found stability to carefully examine her past, in order to make a future in which she defines who she is and the values that will allow her to live her life on her own terms.


“...live your own life .....and rediscover who you were before the world put a label on you."

Viola Davis



Lessons From the Edge

Marie Yovanovitch

Rarely is a book as timely, as evocative or as knowledgeable as “Lessons From the Edge”.  Marie Yovanovitch begins with her background which was so instrumental in directing her life choices.  Her first Foreign Office assignment to Moldova was just the beginning of a life filled with decisions and moments in which her integrity and skills were tested.  As she moved up the ladder and across the world, those challenges became bigger and the consequences more personal and professional.  Finally, in the Ukraine, political forces collide to change everything she believed about her career, her country and herself.  The behind-the-scenes story of testifying before Congress was as intriguing as it was controversial.  Described as “the woman who spoke truth to power”, Yovanovitch maintained her dignity and professional throughout. 

A must read!



The Paris Bookseller

Kerri Maher


What better time to open a bookstore in Paris than the early ‘20’s, when writers like Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and George Bernard Shaw are in their heyday!  Sylvia Beach, an American enamored by all things Parisian, senses this as she opens her first bookstore - Shakespeare and Company.  Little does she know how this action will change her life, inspire artists and make history for France and America?  Shakespeare and Company takes on a life of its own.  Influential authors gather there for research and companionship.  Social contacts support endeavors, personal and professional.  Beach is given the opportunity to publish Joyce’s “Ulysses” after it is banned in America, which becomes a blessing and a burden.  Reading about this process and how these illustrious people and Beach and her partner, Adrienne, went about their daily lives is remarkable.  It is a book composed of bookstores, book writers and book readers.


“Thank YOU reader, no matter what volume you pluck off the shelf, you keep the dream of reading alive”

Kerri Mahler.



The Last Slave Ship

Ben Raines


It has been said that when we know better, we do better.  Never was this truer than in our country’s history of slavery.  In reading “The Last Slave Ship’ you begin to know the process of acquisition, disposition and exploitation of those who were kidnapped in Africa and enslaved in America.  Hard truths emerge, like how was a vessel able to transport slaves fifty years after it was outlawed and no one was ever held accountable or why was the vessel destroyed and locations never revealed?  How were these displaced people who, upon being freed, able to build a town, make civic rules and survive on their own in Africatown.  What were the lasting effects on both sides of these issues generations later?  What were the circumstances of the ship in Mobile Bay and how was the location eventually discovered?  Questions like these continue to need to be explored and resolved.  Ben Raines reminds us that the task’s difficulty is no excuse for neglecting it.  This book is an opportunity to “know better”.  Raines remains optimistic that as American’s we can learn from history and better appreciate those involved in the Africatown story.



Her Hidden Genius

Marie Benedict


Though one of the leading scientists in France and England from 1948-1958, Rosalind Franklin’s name is virtually unknown.   In a well-researched, historical-fictional story Marie Benedict has given credit to a woman who did extraordinary work in the field of molecular biology.  Franklin worked tirelessly at revealing the double helix structure, eventually paying the ultimate price for her persistence and honesty.  Robbed of most of the credit by others in the science world, it is certain that it was she who most advanced our knowledge of molecular structure.  Benedict manages to combine scientific material with human psychology in such a way that the story a remarkable read.



The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett


The decisions about how we choose to live our lives bear’s consequences not only for ourselves but for anyone connected to us.  The more deception is involved, the greater the need for skills to maintain and protect the image.  In the NYT best seller, “The Vanishing Half” a set of twins make very different decisions and then must abide by their choices.  Race, gender, values, biases, culture all play a part in the story.  As their children grow older they make their own decisions based on the lives of their parents.  Is it possible to connect or have close bonds if the communication has always been lies and half truths?  It is a compelling story that you will not want to put down once you start.  You may recognize social issues that still need to be resolved today.



The Librarian of Auschwitz

Antonio Iturbe


None of us knows what we are made of until we are tested by life.  In “The Librarian of Auschwitz”  Dita Krauss found, after ten years in German prisons, that she could survive the worst that was humanly possible.  The singular thing that saved her for several years was becoming the Librarian for five hundred children/counselors in Block 31 of Auschwitz Prison.  The story of how she protected the only source of knowledge for the children in such a dangerous environment is as inspiring as it is chilling.  Antonio Iturbe’s mission in writing the book was so that the inescapable truth of the Holocaust era be preserved.  Interviewing Krauss in real life he became convinced that her story must be saved and known to the world.   A difficult read but well worth the effort.


“Literature has the same impact as a lit match in the night.  The match illuminates relatively little, but enables us to see how much darkness surrounds it”.
citing William Faulkner




The Book of Lost Friends

Lisa Wingate


For those of you who enjoyed “Before We Were Yours”, Lisa Wingate has another historical fiction story of equal quality.  It seems that after the Civil War many of the freed slaves were left with little knowledge of their family member’s existence.  A newspaper began a column publishing requests that came to them to help find mothers/fathers, children, brothers/sisters- any relative still living.  A book was started that had listings of names and contact’s addresses was sent to preachers, court houses and newspapers throughout the south.  Word spread and responses began to come in.  Over several years some family members were able to reunite.  Wingate uses this amazing “Book of Lost Friends” to be used by a new high school teacher in LA to motivate disconnected students.  The message of family and connection is worthy of the read.


“The greatest hardship to the heart is to endlessly wonder about your people."




The Paris Library

Janet Skeslien Charles


Bibliophiles will recognize this book as written just for them!  They know that books are written for many reasons – knowledge, escape, entertainment, comfort, understanding, and power – all available in your local library.  The library provides a sense of community to those who value books.  In this historical fiction, “The Paris Library”, Janet Charles tells a story of the American Library in Paris during WWII and takes the power of books to a whole new level.  The courage and sacrifice of the staff there provides lessons that will influence lives in another community forty-five years later.  A compelling book to the final page!


“no other thing possesses that mystical faculty to make people see with other people’s eyes. The Library is a bridge between cultures”

       Miss Reeder




E.R. Nurses

James Patterson and Matt Eversmann


We think that we know what nurses do and that we appreciate them, however, in reading this book you began to understand the depth of their accomplishments.  Big city E.R., small rural hospitals, military bases, helicopters – all house these amazing people that give their best when humans are at their worst.  Each chapter is a nurse’s personal story of care, commitment and connection with patients and their families.  The time spent in that twilight zone of life and death is filled with caring, stress, acceptance and loss.  You will forever see nurses and the work that they do in a broader perspective.


“Nursing, I realize, isn’t just about medicine.  It’s also about making – and preserving – that human condition.”




The Lincoln Highway

Amor Towles


You know the kind of book that you begin to read and find that you just can’t put it down?  Best selling author, Amor Towles, (writer of A Gentleman in Moscow) doesn’t disappoint in yet another story-telling success.  It is a story that is set in the 1950’s and told from the viewpoints of each of four characters.  The connection that they have with each other, and to you as the reader, is a mark of the writing talent of Towles.  So pick a good day, open this book and enjoy the art of reading!




Bob Woodward and Robert Costa


Whenever a crisis occurs there is always a tendency for quick explanations, suppositions, theories and opinions to abound – most of them unfounded.  The best that can be done is to find sound research based on voices that you can trust to dig deep and wide for answers.  Such is the case in “Peril”.  Woodward and Costa interview over 200 people involved in the political crisis surrounding the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capital.  They went through some 6,000 pages of transcripts to document the details of calls, conversations, orders and records.  In this process much is uncovered, often in personal accounts, about the peril of that time period.  In order to come together for a better future, it is necessary to become more knowledgeable about the past.



Travels with George

In Search of Washington and His Legacy

Nathaniel Philbrick


In 1789 after becoming the first president of a newly established country, George Washington was challenged with a land of divided territories, personalities and beliefs.  Though Thomas Jefferson had provided a structure for governing with the Constitution, Washington felt that there would never be a united country unless they all saw themselves as one- Americans.  With this in mind he began a journey taking three years to visit all of the new territories.  He wanted to know them and for them to know their government.  Then 229 years later Nathaniel Philbrick commits to making the same journey as close as conditions would allow.  He, his wife and Dora (his dog) travel, do research and come to know these states in much the same way George Washington did.  Myths are debunked, ugly history revealed, and heroes discovered (warts and all).  As the 18th & 20th century stories interweave it is obvious that though there is still much to be done; it is a country well worth knowing and blessed by the sacrifices on its behalf.


“By subsuming sectional and philosophical interests to the good of the whole, the Union is the antidote to arrogance and self-importance, because there will always be something bigger than a single person, town, city, state, or region-or any single race, religion, sexual orientation, or set of beliefs.”


Nathaniel Philbrick



The Color of Water

A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother

James McBride


An accomplished journalist and musician, James McBride shares the story of growing up with a white, Jewish mother who refused to admit that she was either.  Her mission in life was to see that all twelve of her children complete college and live a “good” life.  This she did by sheer force and, “the grace of God”.  How she took them from the housing project in Brooklyn to their varied professional & personal lives is an inspirational journey.  The open discussion of race and identity brings new perspectives and leads one to understand why his mother always said to him, “Like water, you have no color.  You just are”.  McBride gives a moving tribute to all mothers as he honors his own.


“.... the greatest gift that anyone can give anyone else is life.  And the greatest sin a person can do to another is to take away that life.”




American Happiness and Discontents

The Unruly Torrent


George F. Will


This book is a compilation of articles written for the Washington Post by well-known conservative writer, George Will.  Often used as an intelligent and well researched authority on a myriad of subjects, he tackles many of the topics of policies and politics in the world today.  There is a cross-sectioning of the perspectives of practices through his learned-and often humorous-stories.  The behind the scenes look at individuals and their influences makes it a worthy read for all.  Though you may choose to disagree with some of his conclusions, you will find the process educational.


“In order to diminish our current discontents if Americans adhere to two categorical imperatives: They should behave as intelligently as they can, and should be as cheerful as is reasonable.”

                                      George Will




The Painted Veil

Somerset Maugham


Reading “The Painted Veil” is to be reminded of why some books belong to the Classics.  They can be read and reread throughout your life, giving something new with each reading in a way that only great writers can accomplish.  Somerset Maugham is masterful at telling a story.  The book revolves around a young English woman who marries for all the wrong reasons.  After being unfaithful, she is subjected to a move into cholera ridden rural China in the 1920’s.  In is the reality of her circumstances there she is fundamentally changed.  She returns to England determined to find the sense of peace that eluded her in China.  The book became a movie and is now one of the “golden oldies”.




Anxious People

Fredrik Backman


If you read “A Man Called Ove” (and I hope that you did!) you might recognize this author’s name.  As a Backman fan, initially, I found this story and plot of this story somewhat convoluted.  Though tempted to set it aside, I continued reading and was rewarded with more of Backman’s insights into human behavior.  His ability to see the foibles and strengths in each character has the reader connecting with them through their “anxious” times.  Like them, you come to understand what really matters – listening, connecting, truth and acceptance.


“the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness and hope – the things that save us, even in the most anxious of times.”






Matthew McConaughey


  Another memoir by another famous person, why bother?

Maybe because this book is as multi-faceted and as likable as McConaughey, himself.  Using the title “Greenlights” as a metaphor for the good times when everything works;  the yellow and, especially, red lights – triggering warnings and freefalls into failure and despair.  He shares events in his past that allowed him to take control of the “lights”, thus, becoming confident in his ability to live life on his own terms.  Open, honest, humorous and, by turns, spiritual, philosophical and poetic – McConaughey provides a good read and, perhaps, inspires for your own “path”.   As he says, life is an on-going process.  Giving attention to that process can improve the greenlight possibilities.


“When we are competent at our values and place more value on competence, we create a more valuable society”.

                                               Matthew McConaughey





The Overstory

Richard Powers

(Pulitzer Prize Winner)


An interesting book that deviates from traditional storytelling by intertwining personal dramas, cultural philosophies and universal truths.  The reader’s level of knowledge and sympathy to the problems of nature vs. humans well might determine the value in reading this book.  In attempting to save the remaining virgin forests of the world, the characters go to great lengths to get the attention of those who are not “listening”.  Though their methods become extreme they believe that the message is essential for the survival of not only forests but for mankind, as well.  Confronted with detailed information about the attributes of nature, the reader must decide between being aware, being informed or becoming active.  A very different read but well worth the effort.


-The trees are trying to tell us: “Listen.  There is something you need to hear”.




West With Giraffes

Lynda Rutledge


As a reader, what is more satisfying than to close a book with a sigh and say, “Now that was a good story”! Woodrow Wilson Nickel (yes, a “wooden nickel”) begins his tale at 105 years of age.   The reader accompanies him in his race to record his memories while he can.  Based on historical events –two giraffes surviving an oceanic hurricane and a cross-country transport to CA- the road adventures to get to the San Diego Zoo begin.  Across the country newspapers use this uplifting story to combat the news of the Dust Bowl era and the beginnings of WWII.  A boy coming of age on the journey learns that “home, family, trust, peace” can come in many forms.  The passing of time becomes not as important as those special moments that will stay with you forever.  A worthy read.


“Few friends have I known and two were giraffes...”




The Daughters of Yalta

The Churchills, Roosevelts and Harrimans:

A Story of Love and War

Catherine Grace Katz


A great read of a pivotal point in world history based on the experiences of three world leaders and their daughters.  The effects that each of these women in their relationships with their fathers, emotional and political, had on the outcomes of this international summit is remarkable.  The depth of the research and intimate details of the process bring history to life.  Katz shares personal letters and talks that reveal why these women were chosen to accompany their fathers at this particular time and how it affected their loves and lives.  It will leave many questions about what was and what could have been at that point in time.




An Inconvenient Woman

Stephanie Buelens


Is she crazy, evil or just confused?  These people who come into her life, are they friends or enemies?  How does a “sin eater” work into the story?  These are questions that that interplay throughout the book “An Inconvenient Woman”.  A book with enough twists and turns that you will not want to put it down.  Enjoy!




No Time Like the Future

(An Optimist Considers Mortality)

Michael J. Fox


For a story that will help you rethink your health issues, this is the book.  Michael Fox came from Canada eager to make his mark in entertainment.  He had almost immediate television success with family comedy shows.  At the age of twenty-nine with a wife and a new baby, he was at the top of his game.  Then he was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease.  Like all of the other challenges in his life, he was optimistic about dealing with it in a way in which he could live his best life.  He created the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, became a global advocate and raised millions of dollars to help others.  However, additional challenges kept coming.  A brain tumor, followed by a spinal cord tumor (not associated with Parkinson) and, finally, multiple breaks in his arms that required extensive surgery.  His life perspective becomes strained to the point of collapse.  Through his sense of humor, family stories and personal reflection he takes you through a journey of life and loss.  The challenge to focus on the people in your life and gratitude for what you can do (as opposed to what you can’t) is inspiring.  It is more than just a good read.


The Midnight Library
Matt Haig

If you are the kind of reader that appreciates a shake up in a book – style, plot and philosophy- this is the book for you! In a fictional sojourn between life and death (the Midnight Library), Nora Seed must examine life within its many facets. What would have happened had she made different decisions along the way? Would she have had fewer regrets? She must come to terms with what makes a “well-lived” life. In doing so, she discovers the beauty of ordinary life.




The Doctors Blackwell

How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women and Women to Medicine

Janice P. Nimura


Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman ever to earn a medical degree.  Her sister, Emily Blackwell, was the second.  That story of their quest in 19th century medicine and society is incredible.  Believing from an early age that they were meant to “make a difference in the world”, they focused their entire lives on making that happen.  Never relaxing their high standards of intelligence, integrity or intensity- they accomplished miraculous medical changes on two continents.  Fighting the system of male domination, questioning medical training and practices, always searching for money and support won them respect and, eventually, acceptance in the medical community.  Resolved, eccentric, relentless, visionary, idealistic – all apt descriptors of these amazing women.  Now, as a result of their efforts 35% of physicians and 50% of medical students are female!




The Crown in Crisis

Countdown to the Abdication

Alexander Larman


As Americans, we are often quite fascinated by British history, especially when it relates to the royal family.  A legendary tale of the abdication of King Edward VIII, “The Crown in Crisis” recounts that story in a remarkable style.  The intrigues of that era are covered in an analytical progression that has the reader fully involved in an event that came close to destroying the monarchy.  On December 10, 1936, the first king ever to abdicate his ascension to the throne declared that he could not fulfill his duty without the woman that he loved beside him.  In the previous months family, politicians, the press, lawyers, high society and the public at large – all took some part in the final decisions of the abdication.  Based on principle, animosity, friendship and legalities, the issue took on a worldwide dimension that called into question regal behaviors both moral and social.  New material of a possible assassination of the king, background on his Nazi relationships and interviews with those closest reveal other hidden aspects.  It is a love story, a political debate and, most of all, history at its best.



The Brothers Karamazov
Fyodor Dostoevsky


Recently, I was reminded when reading to reconsider the Classics even if it was a book that I had read twenty or thirty years ago.  I would know why it was considered a Classic and my perspectives would have changed with experience.  I found that to be the case in my rereading of “Brothers Karamazov”.  This time I carefully read the descriptive and philosophical treatises (instead of glossing over them).The nineteenth century Russian history provided clues in the development of the story of an irascible, old man and his three sons.  Throughout the story myriad facets of religion, politics and ethics are explored.  The psychology of the characters is the strength of the book.  You understand why they are who they are and how that effects their relationship with one another.  So, whether it is this particular book or another, take a second look at the Classics!




The Great Divorce

C.S. Lewis


Through his skills of interweaving fantasy and philosophy, Lewis challenges the reader to consider good vs evil and grace vs judgement in “The Great Divorce”.  On his literary journey through heaven, one must consider what is valued most in life.  Lewis takes issue with William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” because he says that “Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it: or else forever and ever the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselves”.  “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” (Patti Callahan) is a good precursor for reading this book in that it gives insight into Lewis’ personal life and the religious journey that he was on.




A World History
Mark Kurlansky


“Salt” is book that through the years has been looked at, leafed through and discarded as “dry and uninteresting”. Though listed as one of the “100 Books That You Ought to Read in Your Lifetime”, it isn’t a book that you would readily sit down and read. However, if you do, it will be a book of a lifetime. Kurlansky covers the evolution of mankind using salt as the focus. This simple compound is instrumental in the development of currency, trade routes, growth of cities and monopolies. He integrates economic, scientific, political, religious and culinary issues throughout the book. It broadens the reader’s horizons and will connect with so many subjects that weren’t expected. If you are “worth your salt” you will choose to read this worthy book and be proud that you did.



Talking to Strangers

What We Should Know About The People We Don’t Know

Malcolm Gladwell


We meet “strangers” everyday – at the grocery store, in the bank, at our front door – and immediately begin to make judgments about them.  Our interaction is then based on what we perceived.  What about when the stranger is a doctor, a judge, a policeman?  Is our perception any different?  Malcolm Gladwell simplifies a complex subject, taking what would appear to be random ideas and pulling them together for a conclusion.  His case histories (Bernie Madoff, Amanda Knox, Sylvia Plath) are well-researched  and make interesting reading.  The reader finds that there are understandings of human behavior that determine whether “stranger” interactions are productive or invite conflict and misunderstanding.  This book is a meaningful read for those interested in improved social discourse.



The Outlaw Ocean

Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier

Ian Urbina


Look at a map of the world and what is seen will mostly be the color blue designating the oceans of our planet earth.  Considering how vital it is to us, we know amazing little about these areas.  Without attention it has, like the early days of the wild west, fallen into the hands of those who would exploit and benefit from it.  Ian Urbina takes the reader on a journey through the lives of those who rule this hidden world.  From his own experiences, after years of traveling and interviewing those on the open sea, he recounts the horrors, the treachery and the never to be regained losses of this dark realm.  Not a happy read, but a necessary one if you to be aware of what is happening where boundaries, laws, life and death are determined by big oil, fishing and shipping companies.  Each chapter is a different aspect of the disasters currently happening on the waters around you.  A read that will stay with you long after you put the book down.



His Truth is Marching On

John Lewis and the Power of Hope

Jon Meacham


Looking at this title you might think of this book as events far removed from today's issues. However, Meacham describes the early civil rights movement as underscoring everything that we now are experiencing in our racial divide. John Lewis, the son of a tenant farmer, begins at the age of eighteen the actions and philosophy that will stay with him throughout his life. The concept of a "Beloved Community" of all is his guiding principle, accomplished by nonviolence at all costs, through sit-ins, marches and, finally, politics. A mild mannered, soft spoken man, he managed to provide inspiration and change in a nation. Reading Meacham's account of this historical movement provides the reader insights into the courage and hope that John Lewis' life exemplified.




Alice's Network

Kate Quinn


What a fantastic read! Quinn manages to blend authenticity and fiction by citing known people and events with her dialogue and characterizations. The characters become so vivid that you feel connected to them. The war time experiences of the female espionage agents are full of intrigue and keep you wanting to know what happens next After two wars there are two women whose lives are woven together by revenge and hope and survival. The story will stay in your mind long after you have finished it.




Becoming Mrs. Lewis

Patti Callahan


Though you may be familiar with the name C.S. Lewis, you may not recognize the name Joy Davidson. Yet the story of their relationship was one of the most poignant of its day. In this book which of historical fiction, Patti Callahan takes the factual accounts from her research and with her commentary brings life to the fusion of these two soul mates. Through years of friendship filled with letters, conversations, poetry and literature, joy and C.S. find emotional truths that change their lives. One truth is a religious conversion shared so deeply that it continues to connect them for all time. Joy Davidson describes how society influences women of that time as she searches for her own authentic life. She comes to be a major influence on Lewis's work with her intellect, writing talent and knowledge of literature. Her encouragement and understanding of him lead them both to new heights and, eventually, to a love so strong that it survives all expectations.



A Long Petal of the Sea

Isabel Allende


Historical fiction at its best! Isabel Allende has done her research in revealing the highs and lows of South American history for the period of 1938-1991. Beginning in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, one family must flee their home in order to survive. Their story as they are forced to travel over continents describes wars, prisons, immigration woes and family secrets as fiction and history blend to make an incredible book. The trials of freedom and repression reflect political injustices that are found in the world today. Throughout these conflicts there remains a message of endurance emphasizing the value of family and support in finding meaning in their lives.




Why We Are So Polarized

Ezra Klein


This is a book that, literally, picked me. In looking through the new nonfiction books I found this title. Having been concerned for some time about the ever-growing divide throughout this country, it seemed just the book that I needed. Klein discusses identities; individual, group and political. He points out that though these work separately, collectively they become dysfunctional. In taking the reader through the structural and psychological forces at work, much can be learned about oneself and others. Though there are no final answers, there is a set of approaches that might help us define our own political identity in a way that works better for ourselves and our country. A worthy read!




The Splendid and the Vile

A saga of Churchill, Family & Deviance

 Erik Larson


Though much has been written about Winston Churchill and his leadership during the Blitz, this author provides an intimate story of how the personal lives of those around him were affected. How does one live under war conditions year after year and how do they deal with the stress of the relentless nightly bombing attacks? How is it that the British become more determined as cities deteriorate and lives are lost? What finally convinces America to become involved? These are the kind of questions answered in the interesting, readable style of Eric Larson. It is a story that will stay with you long after you have read it and help in understanding the relationship between Britain and America.



This is Chance!

Jon Mooallen


Anywhere in the world there is always the possibility of being hit by an occurrence that is so disastrous that it can fundamentally change the life of its inhabitants. Such is the case in Alaska in the spring of 1964. A 9.2 magnitude earthquake comes on Good Friday just as the people of Anchorage are getting off work and heading home. Sociologists will later study this site to determine why the panic and criminal behavior one would expect in such a situation did not occur. One of the myriad reasons was a woman named Genie Chance. This is her story and told in such a way that it is believable and suspenseful throughout. As she moderates the dialogue of the disaster, almost from the first moment, Chance calms, informs and comforts the people of Alaska. You owe it to yourself to appreciate the difference one person can make in an emergency.




The Stranger in the Woods The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit

Michael Finkel

If you have ever come to the end of a trip or an experience and thought, "I could live like this forever" you will want to read this book. A twenty-year-old man gets to the end of the road, puts the keys on the center console, takes his back pack and disappears into the northern Maine woods for twenty-three years. Finkel gives voice to a man who chose to find his own way in a world that was attempting to round off edges to make a square fit into a round hole. The research, the questions, opinions and real-life stories make for rare insight into this occurrence. Whether agreeing with Chris Wright's choices or not, the reader will benefit from considering them.



The Nickel Boys

Colson Whitehead


The Nickel Academy near Tallahassee, Florida was a reformatory for "wayward" boys for 111 years. Its original mission was to provide "physical, intellectual and moral training" as a structure for these boys to have a better life. The court system regularly placed boys in the facility as a means of "straightening them out". In "The Nickel Boys" a young man, Elwood Curtis, makes a mistake and his life changes forever. In a vicious environment, he attempts to cope with the grotesque practices of the staff and officials in the early sixties. His story exposes corrupt officials, sadistic beatings and the mysterious disappearance of boys taken "out back". Rumors had abounded for some time but now investigations were demanded and bodies found. This book becomes a disturbing reality that marks a part of northwest Florida's history at that time.



Hill Women

Cassie Chambers


As a lawyer, a writer and a native of one of the poorest areas in the Appalachian Mountains, Cassie Chambers sets out to correct the often-negative stereotypes of the women who live there. She describes the complicated issues that affect them and the strength and drive utilized in dealing with daily survival. Their commitment to family and those in the "holler" provides a network that takes the place of little or no social services. Chambers fondness for her homeland and the stability that she was found there, leads her to return to offer help and show understanding of the prevalent fear and hopelessness of the "hillbillies". A warm, coming of age story of a young woman whose dream is to make a difference.





Edmund Morris


The name of Thomas Edison brings to mind his most well-known invention, the universal electric light. Little is known of his 1,093 other inventions, such as the universal stock ticker, the electric meter, reversible battery, a miner's safety lamp, a sensor capable of registering the heat of star light and the list goes on. Several inventions that benefited the military and medical fields he never patented but left for the use of those in need. Delving into the many areas of study done by Edison (chemistry, botany, business), the in-depth research in this book gives information to the times and the people connected to him throughout his life. As well as, being the genius inventor that defined him, Edison was a compulsive, complicated figure. Reading about him will enlighten the reader with an entire era of possibilities and progress.




The Boy, the Mole,

the Fox and the Horse

Charlie Mackesy

Minutes to read it. a lifetime to achieve it.




One Day

(The extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America)

Gene Weingarten


Imagine picking at random one 24-hour period and using stories that happened through that particular day as a microcosm for everyday life in America. Gene Weingarten did exactly that. selecting the date of Dec. 28. 1986. He shares stories (and gives follow-ups) from throughout that 24-hour period. It is interesting how many incidents will seem familiar to the reader. You will find comedy. tragedy. irony. kindness. idiocy. prejudice. and coincidence - all faces of the human condition. It took Weingarten six years to write this book in order to do the research and. in some cases. to see how the story turned out. The end result being that the reader begins to see how many possibilities exist on any given day and how choices made influence future circumstances.




Smoke Gets In Your Eyes


Other Lessons From The Crematory

Caitlin Doughty


Though most people prefer not to think about death, for those who would like to examine their discomfort or fears of the process, this is the book. Written in an open, honest, and, often, humorous writing style, Caitlin Doughty makes an attempt to demystify the process of death. Candidly, she shares stories (sad, funny, endearing, sometimes, morbid) of trying to come to terms with her own fears and questions regarding what she terms "the dark culture". That includes those in the industry who often perpetuate practices that depersonalize the experience or give half-truths about laws, health concerns or costs. Doughty's wish is to remove both stigma and alienation from the funeral process. She shares funeral practices of other cultures focusing on the values of each. Her easy style makes what would otherwise be a taboo subject, approachable and interesting. At some point, she reminds, we all will face the inevitable, how prepared we are is up to each of us.



The Last Palace Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives

and One Legendary House

Norman Eisen


A legendary story of historical and personal significance through a century of modern European history, "The Last Palace" is a worthy read. It is best described in the words of Madeline Albright, "the battle for Democracy through the lives of people who fought it and those who would destroy it". How did America become the owner of Prague's "Last Palace"? How did Shirley Temple play a role in defining democracy for Czechoslovakia? Why does the political history of a country half a world away matter to America? What can be learned from the lessons shared? A remarkable read about one residence, six inhabitants and a century of history.




The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

By Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik


This book will remind you of why you enjoy a having a hard copy book to read! Funny, informative and inspirational, it has much for the avid reader. The time lines, charts and illustrations give extensive information in different formats (my favorite is the "doodle page"). To read Ginsburg's story is to become aware of the richness and depth that she has contributed to the judicial process. The authors give insight into her work ethic and her consistent political philosophy. Her quiet, strong style is enhanced by her ability to work with those of differing opinions while staying strong on issues that are important to her. Underestimated for a number of years, she has become a popular phenomenon in recent years for young professionals. Currently the longest sitting Supreme Court Judge, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is still hard-working ("the work is not done yet and neither am I") and full of fun. A worthy read!



Elaine's Circle

A teacher, a student, a classroom and one unforgettable year

By Bob Katz


If you had that teacher that was so special she/he made a difference in the lives of all of the children in that classroom, you will relate with this beautiful story of Elaine Moore. As stated by Bob Katz, if you go into any school and talk to different people there, you will hear about acts of dedication, determination, sacrifice or plain old magic. Schools, he says, are the great untapped resource for true heroism and passion. Elaine Moore, a fourth grade teacher in Eagle River, Alaska is one of those stories. Always an outstanding and passionate teacher, during this particular year, one of her students is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The beauty of how she makes this issue a life lesson for her students and their families is a testament to all outstanding teachers everywhere. You will want to share this life lesson with them.



The Moment of Lift,

How Empowering Women Changes the World

By Melinda Gates


The title sums up the message of this amazing read. If you are inclined to bypass this book as just another rich, famous person's take on the world, give it a chance. After years of travel and experiences, Melinda Gates has one major takeaway - When we lift women and children everywhere, it benefits us all. From boardrooms to ghettos she found the need to a) work with women (they can make change happen), b) listen (what you want may not be what they need), and c) get involved (it must happen at the local level). She gives a smart, thoughtful and passionate plea for the women of the world. You may not have her connections (or money) but you do have the ability to lift others up, help them with obstacles and give them power to shape their lives. A meaningful contribution, no matter how small makes for a better future for all is her lesson to the reader.



Haben, a Memoir

The Deaf blind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law School

Haben Girma


Books are read for many reasons; entertainment, love of prose, the thrill of the story and, sometimes, to learn more about the world we live in. The last is true in this incredible account of how a young girl resists the usual restrictions associated with "disabilities". She discovers that disability is an opportunity for innovation, especially in technology. There is much to be learned as she travels the world and she meets the challenge to know herself and those around her. You will have a greater respect for the individuals who find themselves in the biggest minority in this country, the disabled. Those who wish not so much to be an inspiration as to be respected for what they have to offer.




Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

Lori Gottlieb


If you have ever talked to a therapist, wanted to talk to a therapist or are inclined to think that you would never talk to a therapist - this new book is worth of a read! Lori Gottlieb manages to share information, experiences (some are her patient's, some her own) and, most of all, life lessons in this readable book about human development. It is the kind of book where you find yourself wanting to underline passages that speak to you (i.e., use this day well, you will never get it back). With Gottlieb, you will cheer the successes, consider the failures, mourn the losses and appreciate the hard work that most people are going through in trying to make the most of the choices that they have made in their lives. After reading her shared insights, you may well feel the need to "talk" to someone, even if it is to yourself!



"Who lives sees, but who travels, sees more" (Ibn Buttutah)

"An Arabian Journey" (Levison Wood)


It is this spirit that in 2017, Levison Wood begins a journey in which he will circumnavigate the Arabian Peninsula with no agenda except to better understand the history and mythology in this land of ancient civilization. It is a perilous journey of 5,000 miles on camel, jeep and foot that will take him through some of the most contested regions on the planet. He speaks to people of differing backgrounds (sheikhs, soldiers, fishermen, immigrants) about their daily lives, religious beliefs and political persuasions. In an effort to understand the contradiction and, often, hypocrisy of differing cultures, he asks the hard questions, goes to the hidden places and pushes the limits of comfort and safety. In reading this book, you will find a backdrop that provides a deeper dimension to current news reports of this troubled area.






Visit your Online Patron Access Catalog


Copyright © 2015- - Friends of the Shalimar Library - All Rights Reserved.