Small Miracles by Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum


Small Miracles by Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum (1997)
With its moving, heartwarming, and inspirational stories of serendipity and coincidence, this book leaves you with the feeling that just maybe someone is looking over our lives and “making things happen.” There is a second edition, which I also enjoyed: Small Miracles II.

Read an excerpt from another title in the "Small Miracles" series (Small Miracles of Love and Friendship).  Discover more about the author in a New York Times article.

Are you there, Vodka? by Chelsea Handler

Are you there, Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler (2008)
Comedian and talk show host Chelsea Handler tells funny stories about her life. Topics include getting pulled over one week after her 21st birthday, taking a trip to Costa Rica with her father, and her love for vodka. A quick, enjoyable read.


Check out the author's fansite and read an excerpt from the book.

America (The Book) by Jon Stewart

America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart (2004)
Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show fame, has written a very funny book that might also teach you something about the way our government works. However, some readers may be offended by some of the crude language used throughout the book.

You can read an excerptlisten to segments on NPR, or go to Amazon.com to read an interview and watch a video message.

Audition by Barbara Walters

Audition by Barbara Walters (2008)
Barbara Walters "tells all" in this biography/memoir and doesn't come across as being exemplary in her personal life with her parents, sibling, daughter and husbands. But oh, what a life she has lead! Her retelling of her travels and the multitude of interviews she has done is mesmerizing. This woman has lived a full life and has taken us on her journey through the pages of this book. It was a great read.

On ABC's website, read an article about the book and view her photo album, which details various stages of her life. Read the New York Times review or listen to the NPR interview.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (2008)
Inspirational in a common sense, real life kind of a way. Though battling terminal cancer, Pausch doesn't write about dying - he writes about living in a way that stresses the small things we can do to make our lives joyful. Tigger vs. Eeyore. 61 little chapters in 206 little pages - no preaching, no grand "what is the meaning of life" ramblings. I was reluctant to pick this book up and have already recommended it to several people, including my niece who is about to embark on her career as a teacher. Great life lessons for teachers in this book, for parents, for anyone.

Visit The Last Lecture website to find out more about Randy Pausch (who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on July 25, 2008) and more about the book. You can also watch the lecture that inspired the book, listen to Pausch read an excerpt, and discover online extras.

The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil

The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil (2005)
The Singularity is Near is a book about future technology and how it will affect mankind. The author is a well-known inventor and futurist. The “Singularity” refers to a time when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence, like a supercomputer. Kurzweil believes that time is coming very soon. Advances in several fields -- computer technology, genetics, robotics, biomedicine and nanotechnology -- will all advance and merge to become the next evolutionary step of mankind.  Kurzweil sees the elimination of all disease and pollution, and believes our lifespans will increase dramatically. He believes these advances will happen in our lifetime. His ideas are interesting and even frightening at times. The book was technical and difficult to read at times, but well-organized and very thought-provoking.

Visit the author's website for more about the book and other resources. Learn more about technological singularityPreview the book before you come to the library. Check out the site dedicated to the Singularity Summit at Stanford University. Watch this YouTube video on the concept of Singularity.

The Liars' Club by Mary Karr

The Liars' Club by Mary Karr (1995)
This is a coming of age memoir about a young girl growing up in what most would consider to be a dysfunctional family. The family itself, however, cares about each other in their own offbeat way. Proof of the power of love, the book is humorous and touching at the same time.

Visit Reading Group Guides for more about the book, discussion questions, and an interview with the author.

The 8:55 to Baghdad by Andrew Eames

The 8:55 to Baghdad: From London to Iraq on the Trail of Agatha Christie by Andrew Eames (2005)
Author Eames is in Aleppo, Syria, when he hears a reference to Agatha Christie coming regularly to Aleppo to "have her hair done." Knowing nothing of Christie's first visit to the Middle East and her many subsequent trips with her second husband, an archeologist, Eames reads up on Christie and the history of the paths of the Orient Express and Taurus Express that took her on her original trip. The book is full of the trials on traveling by train in the twenty-first century, the many interesting people along the way and the often fascinating history and culture of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. It will make you want to come right back to the library and check out the books (or see the DVDs) of Murder on the Orient Express and Murder in Mesopotamia.

Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King

Brunelleschi's Dome: how a Renaissance genius reinvented architecture by Ross King (2000)
This book describes how a fifteenth-century goldsmith and clockmaker, Filippo Brunelleschi, came up with a unique design for the dome to crown Florence's magnificent new cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore.

With the excitement of the Renaissance as a backdrop, author King tells the whole story from Florence. Brunelleschi’s bitter, ongoing rivalry with the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti to the near capture of Florence by the Duke of Milan.

To help you make this journey back to fifteenth century Florence, King includes lots of fascinating detail; the traditions of the brickmaker’s art, the daily routine of the artisans laboring hundreds of feet above the ground as the dome grew ever higher, the problems of transportation and the power of the guilds.

Lost in America by Sherwin Nuland

Lost in America: A Journey with My Father by Sherwin Nuland (2003)
National Book Award winner (for How We Die) and renowned surgeon, Nuland recounts his anguished relationship with his debilitated, angry, Jewish father. At one time, Nuland was so embarrassed by his father, he even changed his name. But as Nuland ages, the depth of his love and his empathy for his immigrant father surface. Nuland is a good writer, and this book helps him come to terms with his relationship with his now deceased father.

Read a BookPage interview or a New York Times review.

The Dogs of Bedlam Farm by Jon Katz

The Dogs of Bedlam Farm by Jon Katz (2004)
What an appropriate title! Chaos, disarray, confusion - this book has all that and more. Billed as "an adventure with 16 sheep, 3 dogs, 2 donkeys," I couldn't resist. The Dogs of Bedlam Farm is the story of the author's physical and emotional journey as he relocates from his "urban" life in New Jersey to a sheep farm in upstate New York. The adventures he encounters as he trains his 3 border collies, survives a brutal winter alone on the farm, and comes to terms with who he is as a person are both amusing and heartwarming.

You: Staying Young by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet Oz

You: Staying Young by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet Oz (2007)
Drs. Roizen and Oz review the systems of our aging bodies. Better yet, they provide some “signature” YOU tips to stay young at any age. Quality of life requires a degree of effort. I cannot think of anything more important than keeping my independence. This particular CD flows easily. The authors present their ideas clearly and humorously. This combination works.

 

The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn

The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn (2006)
Author Mendelsohn searches out the history of his great uncle, aunt, and their four daughters who perished in the Holocaust. His travels take him to the Ukraine, Israel, Australia, and Scandinavia trying to locate survivors of the small town where his family lived. Finally, the author does find out what were the likely deaths of his six relatives, even standing in the root cellar some of them had hidden in. Mendelsohn believes that these personal stories must be told; otherwise these individual lives are lost to us forever.

Read an excerpt, listen to an interview on Boston's local NPR, get more details from NPR's Fresh Air, and read a New York Times review.

The Soul of a Doctor

The Soul of a Doctor: Harvard Medical Students Face Life and Death (2006)
This book of poignant stories show doctors (really, doctors-to-be) to be so human… conflicted, drawn in by the drama of life and death, and constantly learning from the situations they face daily. This is a must read, especially for doctors, others in the medical profession, and for all of us who at some time are their patients. The stories draw you in and make you hope that these medical students remember the “heart” lessons they learned as a medical students at Harvard and that the medical profession works to connect with the human side of their patients. This book is fascinating. Dr. Jerome Groopman, author of How Doctors Think, another of my favorite medical books, does the forward for this book.

Our Town by Cynthia Carr

Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America by Cynthia Carr (2006)
The last public lynching in the North took place in 1930 in Marion, Indiana, hometown of the author's father. Carr moved to Marion for a year to research the lynching and to see if her beloved grandfather could have taken part. What she discovers is the truth about race relations in Marion and the U.S. today, the history of blacks in the county, the state of the current Klan, and the history of her own family. A long but rewarding book. The Other Side of the River by Alex Kotlowitz explores a modern day suspicious death of a black man in Michigan.