Featured Book Chat Selections 8/17/17

Here is a list of the books discussed in the most recent Book Chat show: August 17, 2017

Appearing with Cathy on this episode: Scott C., Becky W.C., and Lisa V..

Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Secret Love Affair With a Famous Cartoonist
by Bill Griffith [Biography Griffith]

Fifteen minutes after Bill Griffith’s father died from a bicycle accident in 1972, his mother turned to him and said, ‘If I don’t tell you this now, I’ll never be able to tell you. I had a long and happy relationship with a man you knew slightly.’ Thus began Griffith’s journey to reconstruct this hidden relationship between his mother and a deeply cultured jack-of-all-trades cartoonist and crime novelist. Invisible Ink unfolds like a detective story, alternating between past and present, as Griffith recreates the quotidian habits of suburban Levittown and the professional and cultural life of Manhattan in the 1950s and ’60s as seen through his mother’s and his own teenage eyes. Griffith finally discovers the holy grail of his mother’s past: her diary, an ecstatic evocation of her sexual liaison, and an eloquent testament to her deepest feelings; and an unfinished novel that parallels the trajectory of her own life. Griffith puts the pieces together and reveals a mother he never knew.

A Want of Kindness
by Joanne Limburg [Limburg]

The wicked, bawdy Restoration court is no place for a child princess. Ten-year-old Anne cuts an odd figure: a sickly child, she is drawn towards improper pursuits. Cards, sweetmeats, scandal, and gossip with her Ladies of the Bedchamber figure large in her life. But as King Charles’ niece, Anne is also a political pawn, who will be forced to play her part in the troubled Stuart dynasty.Transformed from overlooked princess to the heiress of England, she will be forced to overcome grief for her lost children, the political maneuverings of her sister and her closest friends, and her own betrayal of her father, before the fullness of her destiny is revealed. In A Want of Kindness, Limburg has created a richly realized time and world, and in Anne, a complex and all-too-human protagonist.

Optimists Die First
by Susan Nielsen-Fernlund [YA Nielsen-Fernlund]

Beware: Life ahead.

Sixteen-year-old Petula de Wilde is anything but wild. A former crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula shut herself off from the world after a family tragedy. She sees danger in all the ordinary things, like crossing the street, a bug bite, or a germy handshake. She knows: life is out to get you.

The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class with a small group of fellow misfits. Then a new boy, Jacob, appears at school and in her therapy group. He seems so normal and confident, though he has a prosthetic arm; and soon he teams up with Petula on a hilarious project, gradually inspiring her to let go of some of her fears. But as the two grow closer, a hidden truth behind why he’s in the group threatens to derail them, unless Petula takes a huge risk…

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: The Album, the Beatles and the World in 1967
by Brian Southall [Music 781.66 Beatles]

A carefully crafted and collectible volume celebrates the 50th anniversary of a legendary and groundbreaking Beatles album. Expert Brian Southall’s unique edition recounts the story behind the music and the cultural climate of 1967 when Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band debuted.

The “A-side” of this coolly curated title is all about the Beatles, the music on the album, the recording process, how the disc was received at the time and how it has been acknowledged as one of the greatest albums ever recorded. The “B-side” looks at the state of the world in 1967, from the Summer of Love to anti-war protests to the launch of Rolling Stone magazine to Jimi Hendrix’s first UK tour as a solo artist–and so much, much more.

Fascinating photographs and text build a complete picture of the world as it was when one of the most famous albums of all time was released.

The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built
by Jack Viertel [Music 782.14 Viertel]

For almost a century, Americans have been losing their hearts and losing their minds in an insatiable love affair with the American musical. It often begins in childhood in a darkened theater, grows into something more serious for high school actors, and reaches its passionate zenith when it comes time for love, marriage, and children, who will start the cycle all over again. Americans love musicals. Americans invented musicals. Americans perfected musicals. But what, exactly, is a musical?

In The Secret Life of the American Musical, Jack Viertel takes them apart, puts them back together, sings their praises, marvels at their unflagging inventiveness, and occasionally despairs over their more embarrassing shortcomings. In the process, he invites us to fall in love all over again by showing us how musicals happen, what makes them work, how they captivate audiences, and how one landmark show leads to the next–by design or by accident, by emulation or by rebellion–from Oklahoma! to Hamilton and onward.

Structured like a musical, The Secret Life of the American Musical begins with an overture and concludes with a curtain call, with stops in between for “I Want” songs, “conditional” love songs, production numbers, star turns, and finales. The ultimate insider, Viertel has spent three decades on Broadway, working on dozens of shows old and new as a conceiver, producer, dramaturg, and general creative force; he has his own unique way of looking at the process and at the people who collaborate to make musicals a reality. He shows us patterns in the architecture of classic shows and charts the inevitable evolution that has taken place in musical theater as America itself has evolved socially and politically.

The Secret Life of the American Musical makes you feel as though you’ve been there in the rehearsal room, in the front row of the theater, and in the working offices of theater owners and producers as they pursue their own love affair with that rare and elusive beast–the Broadway hit.

A Square Meal: A Culinary History of The Great Depression
by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe [973.917 Zie]

From the author of the acclaimed 97 Orchard and her husband, a culinary historian, an in-depth exploration of the greatest food crisis the nation has ever faced–the Great Depression–and how it transformed America’s culinary culture.

The decade-long Great Depression, a period of shifts in the country’s political and social landscape, forever changed the way America eats. Before 1929, America’s relationship with food was defined by abundance. But the collapse of the economy, in both urban and rural America, left a quarter of all Americans out of work and undernourished–shattering long-held assumptions about the limitlessness of the national larder.

In 1933, as women struggled to feed their families, President Roosevelt reversed long-standing biases toward government-sponsored “food charity.” For the first time in American history, the federal government assumed, for a while, responsibility for feeding its citizens. The effects were widespread. Championed by Eleanor Roosevelt, “home economists” who had long fought to bring science into the kitchen rose to national stature.

Tapping into America’s long-standing ambivalence toward culinary enjoyment, they imposed their vision of a sturdy, utilitarian cuisine on the American dinner table. Through the Bureau of Home Economics, these women led a sweeping campaign to instill dietary recommendations, the forerunners of today’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

At the same time, rising food conglomerates introduced packaged and processed foods that gave rise to a new American cuisine based on speed and convenience. This movement toward a homogenized national cuisine sparked a revival of American regional cooking. In the ensuing decades, the tension between local traditions and culinary science has defined our national cuisine–a battle that continues today.

A Square Meal examines the impact of economic contraction and environmental disaster on how Americans ate then–and the lessons and insights those experiences may hold for us today.