Jeff Guinn’s The Road to Jonestown

Road to Jonestown

Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

It’s a phrase that has permanently entered the American consciousness, but it always surprises me when people don’t know that it is a reference to the infamous Jonestown Massacre in Guyana in 1978, especially when it is used flippantly.  (I once had a very awkward conversation with a college classmate about that.) Because even though we may laugh at the phrase now, there’s really nothing funny about mass suicide. (Never mind that at Jonestown they were actually drinking mostly Flavor Aid, not Kool-Aid, but that’s a different topic for another day.)

I first heard of Jonestown when I was maybe about 10, 11, 12. There was a documentary commemorating the anniversary of it on PBS, and I remember being riveted by it in absolute horror. In the years since then, I’d read some about the story and also watched on several occasions the famous 1980 miniseries Guyana Tragedy, which stars the late Powers Boothe as Jones in what has to be one of the most chilling performances ever recorded on film.

So, just in general, a recently released book promising to be the most authoritative take on the story yet would have grabbed my attention. But I was specifically compelled to read this one, which was released last month to great acclaim, because its author is rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers.

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From Page to Screen: Casino

Hope you were able to join us at Books in Bloom this weekend! I had a great time–got to hear some wonderful talks from talented authors and even acquired a few signed books. I’m already looking forward to next year!

On that note, last week, when we were chatting about authors we’d like to see at Books in Bloom in the future, I promised to unveil two of my picks over the next couple of weeks.

One author I would love to meet and listen to is Nicholas Pileggi. He was a crime reporter in New York City for 30 years, with a special focus on the Mafia. But most people, myself included, are most familiar with him through his books about the Mafia, Wiseguys and Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas. He adapted both of them into Martin Scorsese movies in the 1990s, Goodfellas and Casino, respectively.

I’ve been a Scorsese fan since I was a teenager, and though my personal favorites of his movies is probably a tie between Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, I really do enjoy both Goodfellas and Casino.

And because I’ve also found organized crime interesting since I was a child–it’s a little embarrassing how many books I own about the mob–when I found out those movies were based on nonfiction books, I read Pileggi’s books and quickly became a fan of his work in its own right.

Honestly, I’d like to meet and talk to Pileggi just because I’d like to his pick his brain and hear inside stories from his days as a reporter, his research for his books, and his experiences in Hollywood. I’d love to hear his thoughts on what it is like to be both the writer of the original source and the adaptation.

And to that end, I thought we might as well compare his book and his movie about the mob’s fall from power in Las Vegas.

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S.C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon

Empire of the Summer Moon

When I saw S.C. Gwynne was a scheduled speaker for Books in Bloom this year, I decided it was the perfect time to try one of his books that had been on my to-read list for a long-time, Empire of the Summer Moon.

I’ve been interested in the American West and Native American history since I was a child–my family can vouch for how weirdly obsessed I was with Son of the Morning Star as a nine-year-old–so I was excited to try Gwynne’s well-regarded history of the Comanche tribe.

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My Year in Reading

What was your year in reading like?

I know a lot of my bookish friends tend to describe their year in reading by how many books they read — and I do that too — but that still doesn’t say much about your year in reading, like what you were actually reading in those 10, 25, 50, 75, 100, etc. books you read over the course of 2016.

And, so to that end, I thought I’d recap my year in reading –a lot of which did not end up on the blog — and you could share your year in reading in the comments.

Note: not all of the books I mention are available in the library, but we can certainly try to get them for you through ILL if you’re interested!

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Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels

the-killer-angels

Call me what you will but I LOVE historical fiction. It’s one of my favorite genres.

However, I am one of the first to admit that a lot of historical fiction novelists are much better at writing either the historical aspect or the fictional aspect, but not both. So when I find a work that manages to integrate history and fiction seamlessly and handles both effectively, I consider it a gem. Michael Shaara’s classic The Killer Angels about the Battle of Gettysburg is just such a gem (and the winner of a Pulitzer Prize – maybe I should be a judge?)

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T.J. Stiles’s Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America

custers-trials

George Armstrong Custer is one of the most controversial figures in American history.

Don’t believe me?

Pick up any book about him or the American West or the American Civil War and see what the authors have to say about him. Some will praise him as a brave but misunderstood genius, some will denigrate him as an egotistical moron, and some will eulogize him as a tragic figure.

I’ve personally always found Custer a fascinating but relatively unsympathetic historical figure, but reading T.J. Stiles’s excellent, Pulitzer-Prize winning Custer’s Trials forced me to  re-evaluate some of my assumptions about him.

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2016 Library Challenge: A Book Published This Year

This is it.  Believe it or not, you have made it to the last post of the 2016 Library Challenge.

If you’ve been participating in the challenge or following along with the blog, you know we have taken quite the journey this year, working our way through a range of interesting challenges, everything from romance to nonfiction to badly-reviewed books.

The only one left is a book published in the last year. So, without further ado, let’s take our last romp of the year with a round-up of some recent releases that have received positive reviews.

As always, if you’re interested, please visit our online library catalog for more information on any of the books.

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