Monday, March 20, 2017

Read-Alike Monday: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy has been one of the most popular books at Lake Forest Library since it was released last summer. If you are interested in learning more about poverty in America, try one of these next.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
From a former Marine and Yale Law School Graduate, a poignant account of growing up in a poor Appalachian town, that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class. Part memoir, part historical and social analysis, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy is a fascinating consideration of class, culture, and the American dream.

Vance’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love.” They got married and moved north from Kentucky to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. Their grandchild (the author) graduated from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving upward mobility for their family. But Vance cautions that is only the short version. The slightly longer version is that his grandparents, aunt, uncle, and mother struggled to varying degrees with the demands of their new middle class life and they, and Vance himself, still carry around the demons of their chaotic family history.

Delving into his own personal story and drawing on a wide array of sociological studies, Vance takes us deep into working class life in the Appalachian region. This demographic of our country has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, and Vance provides a searching and clear-eyed attempt to understand when and how “hillbillies” lost faith in any hope of upward mobility, and in opportunities to come. At times funny, disturbing, and deeply moving, this is a family history that is also a troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large portion of this country.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond From Harvard sociologist and MacArthur "Genius" Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America
In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind.

The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, “Love don’t pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas.

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced  into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette's brilliant and charismatic father captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn't want the responsibility of raising a family.

The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.

The Glass Castle is truly astonishing--a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family.

Nickel and Dimed: Or (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich Millions of Americans work for poverty-level wages, and one day Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that any job equals a better life. But how can anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 to $7 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich moved from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, taking the cheapest lodgings available and accepting work as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing-home aide, and Wal-Mart salesperson. She soon discovered that even the "lowliest" occupations require exhausting mental and physical efforts. And one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors.

Nickel and Dimed reveals low-wage America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate strategies for survival.

Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
In Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country--a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets--among them a Tea Party activist whose town has been swallowed by a sinkhole caused by a drilling accident--people whose concerns are actually ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children. 

Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that these are people who have been duped into voting against their own interests. Instead, Hochschild finds lives ripped apart by stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream--and political choices and views that make sense in the context of their lives. Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it feels like to live in "red" America. Along the way she finds answers to one of the crucial questions of contemporary American politics: why do the people who would seem to benefit most from "liberal" government intervention abhor the very idea?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Celebrate Irish Culture with the Library this St. Patrick's Day!

Looking to celebrate Irish culture beyond wearing green and drinking a shamrock shake? Although we fully support both of those things, we've made a list of ways to celebrate and learn more about Irish culture through music, movies, and books as well!

Try the historical fiction Irish Country series by Patrick Taylor. Set in Ballybucklebo, a fictional village in rural Northern Ireland, the series follows novice doctor Barry Laverty as he begins his assistantship at the practice of Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly. Patrick Taylor was born and raised in Bangor, County Down, in Northern Ireland. An Irish Country Doctor is the first book in the series. 

Check out these books at the Library (FICTION TAYLOR) or download the audio versions using the Hoopla app.


The Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French makes for great atmospheric, chilling reading. The first in the series is In the Woods, follows detective Rob Ryan as he tries to solve a case that he was involved in from his childhood and a similar case taking place today. There are different lead detectives in every story, but they all work in Dublin's Muder Squad division. Tana French grew up in Ireland, Italy, the US and Malawi, and has lived in Dublin since 1990.

Check out these books at the Library (FICTION FRENCH) or download the eBook/eAudiobook versions through the Overdrive app.


Sometimes it's easier to understand different times, places, and cultures through photographs, which is why we recommend, The Irish: A Photohistory by Sean Sexton & Christine Kinealy. These photos document life from 1840-1940. 

Check out this book at the Library (941.5 SEX)

The Story of Ireland: A History of the Irish People by Neil Hegarty is a comprehensive and engaging account of a nation that has long been shaped by forces beyond its coasts. This book re-examines Irish history, challenging the accepted stories and long-held myths associated with Ireland starting from A.D. 433. 

Check out this book at the Library (941.5 HEG)

The classic memoir, Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, takes readers through the authors childhood in both depression-era Brookyln and the slums of Limerick, Ireland. An excerpt from the book says it all- “When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”

Check out this book at the Library (BIOG MCCOURT MCC) or through our apps- Overdrive and Hoopla.


Once is a beautiful contemporary love story. An unnamed Guy is a Dublin guitarist/singer-songwriter who makes a living by fixing vacuum cleaners in his Dad's Hoover repair shop by day, and singing and playing for money on the Dublin streets by night. An unnamed Girl is a Czech who plays piano when she gets a chance, and does odd jobs by day and takes care of her mom and her daughter by night. 

Guy meets Girl, and they get to know each other as the Girl helps the Guy to put together a demo disc. During the same several day period, the Guy and the Girl work through their past loves, and reveal their budding love for one another, through their songs.

Check this movie out at the Library (DVD ONC)

If you are looking for a classic, try The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. Sean Thornton has returned from America to reclaim his homestead in Ireland and escape his past. Sean's eye is caught by Mary Kate Danaher, a beautiful but poor maiden, and younger sister of ill-tempered "Red" Will Danaher. A riotous relationship forms between Sean and Mary Kate, as Will attempts to keep them apart.

Check this movie out at the Library (DVD QUI)

The Clancy Brothers were an influential Irish folk group who came about in the 1960s as part of the American folk music revival. They popularized Irish traditional music in the United States and revitalized it in Ireland.

Stream or download their albums on the Hoopla app.

If you like your music a little more loud and in your face, try the Celtic punk band, Dropkick Murphys. The Massachusetts based band has released nine albums.

Stream or download all of their albums on the Hoopla app.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Cook with Books at the Library presents: Meg Barnhart from the Zen of Slow Cooking!

Meg Barnhart from The Zen of Slow Cooking
Monday night we had a special guest at the Library, Meg Barnhart from The Zen of Slow Cooking. She taught us how to use our slow cookers to make better food. Here are some highlights and cookbooks that Meg brought up in the presentation. Even if you weren't there, you will find this information helpful when using your slow cooker! Be sure to check out The Zen of Slow Cooking's website for more recipes and helpful slow cooking tips!

Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever With More than 400 Easy to Cook Recipes by Diane Phillips

Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof by Ina Garten

Noteworthy: A Collection of Recipes from the Ravinia Festival

Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery and Cafe by Joanne Chang

Art of the Slow Cooker: 80 Exciting New Recipes by Andrew Schloss