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Mad, Mad World

Mad Men on the Couch The Unofficial Mad Men CookbookThe Real Mad Men

Have you wondered what it would be like to live in the advertising world depicted on AMC’s award-winning drama series Mad Men?  Former copywriter Andrew Cracknell gives us an inside look with The Real Mad Men:The Renegades of Madison Avenue and the Golden Age of Advertising.Reneg  

Written from firsthand experience and featuring beautiful photographs from the era, this book explores the history of modern American advertising, the movers and shakers of the industry, and how the “golden age” business culture of the 1960s treated women and minorities.  This title has great appeal for fans of Mad Men, as well as anyone with an interest in advertising. 

 

For a more psychological take on the show, try Mad Men on the Couch: Analyzing the Minds of the Men and Women of the Hit TV Show.  Author Dr. Stephanie Newman delves into the minds of each main character and discusses issues like sexism, identity, parenting, and homophobia through a modern lens.  And don’t worry about psychological jargon – Newman employs a light and accessible tone.  This highly recommended title is as informative as it is entertaining and makes each character come to life.      

 

And just for fun, check out The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars and Restaurants of Mad Men by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin.  This fully illustrated book highlights many of the meals and cocktails seen on the first four seasons of the show, along with brief episode summaries that place each recipe in its historical context.  The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook is a must-read for any serious Mad Men fan.

Alex

 
 

Hush Little Baby

Hush Little Baby

posted by:
April 20, 2012 - 3:28pm

Little Girl GoneWhat is a psychopath?  What does he look like?  Is he a monster with glowing red eyes and long sharp teeth, or is he an attractive man who appears in front of you in a time of weakness?  What if you are in love with him? Little Girl Gone explores the mind of a criminal from a new perspective--the woman who loves him.

 

Willis rescued Madora from a life of drugs and depravity, and now they live alone in an isolated home in California.  Willis dreams of becoming a doctor, but a dishonorable discharge from the military has left him disgraced and bitter.  Madora loves him and wants to help him achieve his goal, believing that they can then marry and have a family of their own.  In the meantime, Willis works as a home health aide, stealing from his elderly clients. 

 

In need of more money in order to pay for medical school in Antigua, Willis abducts Linda, a pregnant teen.  He holds her prisoner, with a secret plan to sell the baby.   Madora wants to believe that Willis is saving Linda from a life on the streets, but she begins to have doubts when Willis starts spending more time with Linda than he does with her.   Everything changes when a boy named Django finds their house while exploring on his bike.

 

Drusilla Campbell writes complex female characters who often do not know how strong they are until they are pushed to the brink.  Madora’s self-realization is a fascinating journey, and Campbell’s supporting characters add interest and emotion to her story.  Little Girl Gone is recommended for readers intrigued by abduction stories, such as A Stolen Life: a Memoir, by Jaycee Dugard, or the critically acclaimed novel Room by Emma Donoghue.

Sam

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Standing Together

Standing Together

posted by:
April 20, 2012 - 12:11pm

The Silence of Our FriendsGraphic novels depicting actual events can be incredibly successful or dismal failures. In the case of The Silence of Our Friends, happily, the former is true. This semi-autobiographical story of the race tensions and riots in 1968 Houston deals with events largely unknown or forgotten. In the months before the demonstrations in and around Texas Southern University began, co-author Mark Long’s father had moved his family from San Antonio to Houston. Jack Long’s career was that of an on-the-scene reporter for a local TV station’s news department. To get a more accurate perspective of the situation, Jack Long befriended an African-American man, Larry Thompson and both families tentatively got to know each other. As the movement grew more heated, a deadly riot broke out on campus and both Jack Long and Larry Thompson found themselves in the middle of a murder trial. A well-known quote of Martin Luther King, Jr. is the source of the work’s title: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

 

A great benefit to the format of the graphic novel is retelling a story of this nature in a new, evocative manner. Eisner-Award winner Nate Powell’s flowing line drawings capture the era, and add to the storyline. In particular, Long’s recollections of his family’s internal issues are captured in the images if not directly confronted in the text. The words pull no punches with the overt racist attitudes of the day, including uncomfortable language.  This book is highly recommended to readers interested in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and those who are looking to better understand the value of the graphic format.

Todd

 
 

A Rainbow Connection of Picture Books

Blue ChickenPete the Cat I Love my White Shoeslitte blue and little yellowRemember learning your colors?  Madly scribbling with crayons, dabbing with a paintbrush, or smearing finger paints, while discovering new color combinations through happy accidents?  That was one of the many things we learned as kids. Check out these three books and experience the fun of colors, with a dash of playful wisdom, all over again!

 

An enthusiastic chicken makes a splash in this new title, Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman.  The story comes alive from the pages of an almost-finished illustration of a barnyard scene.  Seen from the perspective of the artist’s desk, Chicken decides to help, but instead accidentally knocks over a jar of blue paint. Mayhem ensues, as the “sincerely sorry” once-white Chicken turns yellow ducklings green and the barnyard blue. Simple text and lively images draw the reader through the story, as Chicken tries to fix her messy mistake. Will Chicken ever find a solution and clean up the barnyard?

 

A favorite at story time, Pete the Cat – I love My White Shoes, may just become another color classic. Author Eric Litwin (aka Mr. Eric) and illustrator James Dean create a silly, easy to follow day-in-the-life of Pete, who happens to be one cool blue cat, sporting white high top shoes. And Pete really loves his white shoes.  Using repetition and crazy, cartoonish illustrations, readers follow Pete as his white shoes change color each time he encounters a new situation. Does Pete cry? No way! He keeps walking along and singing his own special song, while thinking his cool-cat thoughts. Kids love Pete’s adventures and mellow way of rolling with it. Want to sing along with Pete? Readers can download Pete the Cat’s shoe song for free at www.harpercollinschildren.com/petethecat.

 

Hard to believe, but Leo Lionni’s colorful, classic story, little blue and little yellow, has been delighting generations of kids for 53 years!  Lionni created this renowned  tale in 1959 while keeping his young grandchildren, Pippo and Ann, occupied on a train trip from Greenwich, CT to New York City. Tearing up little pieces of colored paper, he told an incredibly imaginative, insightful story of two friends. The illustrations may seem nothing more than ragged blobs of color on a white page, but combined with the sweet, simple story they each take on a character of their own. As blue and yellow happily hug one day, they suddenly become one - and green!  After an eventful day of play, they go home to find their families don’t recognize them.  Understanding blossoms and everyone, adults and kids, learn something new.

 

From new to classic, these titles are great ways for kids to make the rainbow connection of color, optimism, perseverance, flexibility, and fun!

Andrea

 
 

Can You Swim Faster in Syrup or Water?

Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?The answer to that and other tricky posers used by Google in interviews can be found in William Poundstone’s Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?: Trick Questions, Zen-like Riddles, Insanely Difficult Puzzles, and Other Devious Interviewing Techniques You Need to Know to Get a Job Anywhere in the New Economy.  Since its first recruiting campaign in 2004, Google has been notorious for conducting some of the toughest job interviews.   They include brainteasers and other open-ended mental challenges, along with the standard behavioral questions to identify the candidates most capable of creative problem solving.  In adopting this approach, Google is looking to better predict employee performance, seeing where candidates run out of ideas. The questions are designed to measure mental flexibility, entrepreneurial potential, and the ability to innovate. 

 

Google is a cutting-edge company where Human Resources is called People Operations (People Ops) and every job candidate is the subject of a 50-page package.  In addition to the usual academic, professional and social history, this report also critiques the potential employee’s overall “Googliness.”  The perks associated with working at the Google campus are legendary and include free food, coin-free laundry facilities, and an annual ski trip.

 

Other employers have taken notice, and today, along with passing social network checks and displaying above-average intelligence, candidates must sit through more interviews than ever before and pass questions that try to screen for a particular personality.  Poundstone offers strategies for making the best of these nerve-racking situations, identifies interviewers’ hidden agendas, and offers tips for saving a failing interview. This informative title will appeal to job seekers looking for inside information and interview strategy.  Those safely employed will enjoy the compelling writing and puzzles and be glad they don’t have to face such an ordeal.

 

Try your hand at the Google interview at http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/2012/0208/Would-Google-hire-you-10-test-questions-to-find-out/A-plane-flight.  And just so you don’t have to swim in syrup, the surprising answer to the question above is that there is no difference in speed!

Maureen

 
 

A Thousand Words

Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little RockA naked Vietnamese girl crying and running, JFK saluting at his father’s funeral, an anguished scream over a prostrate body at Kent State; these iconic photos capture moments which illustrate the turbulence of the mid-twentieth century. Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick explores another seminal photograph taken on September 4, 1957 as black Elizabeth Eckford attempts to enter, and integrate, Little Rock, Arkansas’ heretofore all white Central High. In this instantly recognizable image, petite Elizabeth, dressed in crisp white with a binder clutched to her chest, is followed by fellow student, white Hazel Bryan. Hazel is rigid with anger, mouth open, teeth bared.

 

Elizabeth was part of the Little Rock Nine; she was one of nine black teens carefully chosen to integrate the high school as a result of Brown v. Board of Education.  Margolick relates the backstory of the girls in the picture but he also writes of the women those girls became and the ripple effect of the photograph and events surrounding it on the pair.  As adults, Hazel reaches out to Elizabeth to apologize for her actions memorialized on film and the two woman forge a tentative friendship. Each finds her life forever impacted by the photograph, despite Hazel’s assertion that “life is more than a moment.”

 

Margolick’s writing style allows history and the women’s stories to take center stage in this book. Not surprisingly, Elizabeth’s recollections are particularly poignant; in one, she relates thinking the National Guard had been called out to protect her as she walked to school rather than to barr her entrance as they’d been ordered to do.  Elizabeth and Hazel goes beyond the confines of a picture to bring a personal look at two woman, the civil rights struggle and the fragility of forgiveness and reconciliation. For additional reading in a similar vein, try Norma Watkins’ memoir The Last Resort: Taking the Mississippi Cure.

 

Lori

 
 

Fat Kevin Federline and a Creed Song

You're Not Doing it RightBest known for his absurdist comedy sketch shows, "The State", "Stella", and "Michael and Michael Have Issues", Michael Ian Black is probably the last person anyone would expect to have something to say about what it takes to be a husband and father.  However, in his latest book, You’re Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations, the comedian takes a slight turn from his usual stream of sarcasm and delivers a touching and surprisingly personal memoir about these issues and more.

 

Nearing forty years of age, Michael Ian Black finds himself in constant state of ennui. Spending his days scouring the internet for pictures of fat Kevin Federline (Britney Spears’ notorious ex-husband) just isn’t entertaining him like it used to and he begins to question his own existence. Taking the reader with him, he explores his life up to this point.Beginning with his unusual childhood in New Jersey and continuing through his reminiscences as a married father of two, Black provides us with laughter and tears along the way. Readers who are familiar with Black’s comedy will perhaps be astonished by how frank and touching these confessions are. One of the best examples of this is when recounts a time while driving and thinking about his baby-to-be.  A  laughable song by the band Creed comes on the radio, and he proceeds to break down in sobs.

 

While this title will hold special appeal for first-time parents and newlyweds, You’re Not Doing It Right is a frank and humorous book recommended for anyone who’s survived an existential crisis.

 

Erin

 
 

Gypsy Secrets Revealed

Gypsy Boy: My Life in the Secret World of Romany GypsiesRomani gypsies are an insular people, and little is known of their culture.  They distrust outsiders and prefer to live among, work with, and marry within their own cultural circle. Enter Mikey Walsh (a pseudonym), one of the first brave souls to write a memoir about growing up in a gypsy camp. Gypsy Boy: My Life in the Secret World of the Romany Gypsies gives the reader an inside look at Romani gypsies, who trace their origins to the Indian peninsula and through Eastern Europe. Gypsy men are masculine, tough and charismatic, living by their wits and usually finding work by convincing unsuspecting marks to part with their money. Gypsy women are expected to care for the home and the children and rarely interact with the men. While male gypsies are encouraged to have sexual encounters in the world with non-gypsy women, female gypsies are supposed to remain chaste until early marriage by age eighteen.

 

Revealing gypsy secrets can be a dangerous undertaking, and the author refuses to be photographed in order to preserve his true identity. Walsh grew up in the shadow of his father, a robust bare-knuckle fighting champion who tried to teach young Mikey to fight by knocking him across the room. As he grows older, Walsh realizes that he is gay, something that is so unacceptable to his father that he can only live his life in terror, hoping for some kind of escape.

 

The author reveals a bleak and dysfunctional childhood, but his determination and perseverance eventually pay off.  Although some of the stories are harrowing, the author intersperses some humorous anecdotes involving some very quirky relatives. Walsh manages to find a way out of the gypsy life, get an education and tell the world his story. A companion biography, Gypsy Boy on the Run was published last year in the U.K. Through it all, he remains proud of his gypsy heritage.  Gypsy Boy is a quick read, with a sympathetic and likeable narrator.  Pick it up for a fascinating look into another culture. This title is recommended for those who enjoy hardscrabble memoirs like Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt or Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. 

 

Doug

 
 

Dancing in the Street with Introverts

Dancing in the Street with IntrovertsMany introverts will rejoice, exult and maybe even (quietly) dance in the street after reading Susan Cain's thoroughly engaging new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. Far from being a self-help guide, Quiet celebrates introverts and the unique qualities they bring to their workplaces, classrooms, marriages and friendships. Combining fascinating anecdotes and extensive research from a variety of scientific fields, Cain makes a convincing argument for re-assessing the “extrovert ideal” in American culture.

 

In a society that increasingly favors “groupthink” or brainstorming sessions, Cain maintains there is also reason to value those people who prefer solitude, avoid social situations and prefer to express themselves in writing. Indeed, many of our greatest thinkers and artists have been introverts and have required absolute solitude to create, think and write. She shares fascinating glimpses into the lives of several famous introverts such as Warren Buffett, Albert Einstein and Dr. Seuss.

 

One of the many strengths of Quiet is Cain's pragmatism. As a former corporate lawyer, she is no stranger to the highly social world of the American workplace. Introverts often prefer to work in a quiet environment, may find social situations draining, and usually prefer to work with few distractions. However, these conditions are simply not practical in today's workplaces and classrooms. Cain offers realistic, pragmatic solutions methods that allow introverts to be successful in the workplace and other social settings while remaining true to their own biological wiring. She also gives excellent advice to parents of young introverts. She advises parents to celebrate a child's true nature but also suggests useful navigation strategies for social situations in the classroom and playground.

 

Susan Cain has written a highly readable book. She manages to bring historical and psychological context to her subject while consistently maintaining the interest of the reader. Quiet is highly recommended not only to those who identify as introverts but also to parents, managers, and educators who want to develop a deeper understanding of the introverts in their lives.

Zeke

 
 

A Shimmering Lady Finds her Way

The Lady in Gold:  The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-BauerWhen Adele Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy Jewish salon hostess, sat for her portrait in 1907 by Austria’s most famous painter, Gustav Klimt, it is doubtful that either imagined the painting’s disturbing journey to come.  Washington Post journalist Anne-Marie O’Connor explores these realities in her well-researched book, The Lady in Gold:  The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.

 

This story unfolds in turn of the century Vienna, where affluent Jewish families are lured by the city's sophisticated culture. Artists, led by Klimt, seek more freedom to express their "art of the soul."  They find support for their Secessionist movement from forward thinking patrons, like Adele and her industrialist husband, Ferdinand. When Ferdinand commissions Klimt to paint his wife, the result is a shimmering, gold mosaic of the dazzling, dark haired beauty. 

 

O'Connor frames the story in three sections, spanning more than one hundred years. While it can be challenging to keep track of all the Bloch-Bauer connections, the short chapters keep the narrative moving with poignant vignettes.  Much time is spent on the pillaging of the Viennese Jewish population by Nazi soldiers and theft of their art treasures. Even in post-Nazi Austria, stolen works with questionable provenance remained in Austrian museums. Adele's portrait was renamed The Lady in Gold, losing its Jewish identity. 

 

The author draws upon extensive interviews and correspondence with Adele's niece, Maria Altmann, whose successful legal fight returned the Klimt paintings to private hands, including Klimt's Adele.  While the painting today is at the Neue Galerie in New York, it may be impossible to gaze upon Gustav Klimt's muse without considering the human cost of war, the complexities of art restitution, and each stolen painting's story yet to tell.

Cynthia