BCL Staff Picks for 2009

Ginny Marshall, Branch Manager, St. Helena Branch

Elements coverAn eye-opening, fascinating collection of beautiful photographic representations of the 118 elements in the periodic table. Filled with astounding facts, figures, and stories of the elements, it is hard to put down.

546 GRA

Sheryl Hill, Circulation Representative, Bluffton Branch

The Family coverSynopsis: They are "the Family" -- soldiers in the army of God, waging spiritual war in the halls of American power. Their base is a quiet, leafy estate along the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, and Jeff Sharlet is the only journalist to have reported from inside its walls. His experience with fundamentalist Christianity’s elite corps launched him into a deeper examination of the movement’s roots in American history, and its surprising allies past and present, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, dictators from Indonesia to El Salvador, and present-day politicians from both sides of the aisle. THE FAMILY dramatically revises conventional wisdom about American fundamentalism, revealing its crucial role in the unraveling of the New Deal, the creation of the Cold War, the no-holds-barred economics ofglobalization, and the slow but steady destruction of the wall of separation between church and state .

Part history, part investigative journalism, THE FAMILY is an eye-opening, elegantly written examination of the spiritual awakenings that have convulsed this nation, making a powerful case that these awakenings -- from Jonathan Edwards’ belief that "We are sinners in the hands of an angry God" to today’s alarming nexus of church and state -- are manifestations of an American mood that has been present since the beginning.

The author lived undercover with the Family at their house "Ivanwald" in Arlington, Virginia, and an article about his experience appeared as a feature article in Harper’s (March 2003). His subsequent work on elite Christian fundamentalism has appeared regularly in Harper’s and Rolling Stone.(From bn.com)

201.72 SHA

Francesca Denton, Reference Manager, Bluffton Branch

The Help coverSet in Stockett's native Jackson, MS, in the early 1960s, this first novel adopts the complicated theme of blacks and whites living in a segregated South. A century after the Emancipation Proclamation, black maids raised white children and ran households but were paid poorly, often had to use separate toilets from the family, and watched the children they cared for commit bigotry. In Stockett's narrative, Miss Skeeter, a young white woman, is a naive, aspiring writer who wants to create a series of interviews with local black maids. Even if they're published anonymously, the risk is great; still, Aibileen and Minny agree to participate. Tension pervades the novel as its events are told by these three memorable women. Is this an easy book to read? No, but it is surely worth reading. It may even stir things up as readers in Jackson and beyond question their own discrimination and intolerance in the past and present. --Rebecca Kelm (Library Journal, vol 134, issue 1, p83)


Lanetta Sova, Circulation - Youth Services, Beaufort Branch

Inkheart coverI enjoyed listening to this three book series while riding in my car. In the first book we meet Mo, a book doctor, who can read things right out of the pages of the book and his daughter, Maggie. After seeing Dustfinger, a character Mo read out of a book years before Maggie and Mo end up on a wild and sometimes fearful adventure. In the next two books Maggie, Mo and others are read into a book and now try to make their own happy ending.


Fran Hays, Reference Manager, Beaufort Branch

Jane Austen mysteriesMy favorite light reading this year has been the Jane Austen mysteries by Stephanie Barron. The author helps her readers by incorporating the number of each book in the series into a title as in Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor: Being the First Jane Austen Mystery. The series contains eight novels which is very nice for the reader who enjoys Stephanie Barron’s characters; for those who don’t, it really doesn’t matter how many or few are available!

The premise of the books is that Austen’s diaries were found under a coal pile in the basement of a home in Baltimore. The “editor,” of the diaries writes the books and places footnotes at intervals to explain archaic terms unknown to the modern reader or bits of Jane Austen’s history.

In the books, the poverty-stricken Austens move often, or travel on extended visits with relatives, and everywhere they go someone seems to die. (If they were real people, there would probably be a blog warning the residents to beware when the Austen family moved into their neighborhood!) Jane is sometimes assisted in her sleuthing by the dashing Lord Harold Trowbridge, a shadowy character who spies for the British crown. Jane cannot believe he loves her, and the reader cannot believe the couple is so mannerly that neither ever says anything about their mutual attraction. Hinting seems to be a Victorian obsession.

For anyone who likes the real Austen, enjoys a good mystery, or likes gathering historical factoids, these books will serve nicely.