When times are difficult, sometimes the right book can help us reflect on our experiences, process what is happening around us, and heal. We hope that readers will find solace and peace in these classic works by African American poets and authors.
Prior to the arrival of the COVID19 pandemic, when our doors were open, numerous Pratt customers would approach the reference desk in the African American department with requests for information about the Civil Rights Movement. In the words of historian Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, “The civil rights movement circulates in American history in forms and through channels that are at once powerful, dangerous, and hotly contested.” As the world watches Minneapolis after the killing of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis Police department, this tragic loss of life and the legacies of the Civil Rights movement reflect heavily in the minds of those of us who are concerned with the end of police brutality and all forms of state violence against the oppressed. They are downplayed and questioned in the minds of those who are not. Memories of and arguments about the Civil Rights movement, like Dowd wrote, from 1954 to 2020, from Selma to Greensboro to Los Angeles to Ferguson to Baltimore indeed remain deeply contested.
The African American department wishes to continue supporting our customers as we all reflect on all that has been accomplished by Black activists across the nation, and all that has been thwarted by fearful, angry citizens and fearful, powerful governments committed to racial oppression. This is a selection of documentaries about the Civil Rights Movement that are available through the streaming service Kanopy, ranging from topics such as the activism of the Black Panthers, to the reflections of James Baldwin on the movement, and the leadership of Black women. Forthcoming are selections from our digital E-book collections that we hope readers will find strength and respite in during these painful times. We express our deepest, heartfelt condolences to all of George Floyd’s loved ones. Rest in power, Mr. Floyd.
The Art of Fielding is a long, unabashed ode to baseball, to writing, to the reward of work itself, and to family, particularly the families we choose for ourselves.
Chad Harbach gets so much right in this novel, his 2011 debut. He perfectly describes Major League scouts as “leisurely CIA agents on their off-day,” with their laptops and laptop cases, team branded polo-shirts, radar guns, and clipboards, their business-casual slacks and wrap-around Oakley sunglasses—always Oakley’s. Descriptions like these are sure to leave you buzzing with nostalgia.
The book seems to say, come to be reminded of your beleaguered pot-bellied coaches, with their asinine aphorisms, or their soft-spoken poignancies; enjoy the spit puddles, sunflower-seed piles, all the elaborate routines and handshakes, the ticks of superstition, and the nicknames. But stay for the heart-rending explorations of human life—how one forms an individual identity independent of their self-appointed life coach, independent of their parents, or the game they’ve given their life to, independent even of their past mistakes.
The book follows five characters—Guert Affenlight, his daughter Pella Affenlight, Owen Dunne, Mike Schwartz, and Henry Skrimschander—through their intertwined journeys on the campus of Westish College, a small, fictional liberal arts college in Northern Wisconsin on the shore of Lake Michigan.
As is apt for a baseball tale, the story spins into high gear after an errant throw. When Henry’s first error in three years hits his roommate Owen Dunne in the head, sending him to the hospital, the lives of all five characters come colliding together in unexpected ways.
I won’t spoil the conclusion, but this is a great listen if you’re longing for sports, or just a consuming distraction.
Looking for a way to entertain yourself during isolation? Then you may be on the hunt for some good escapist fiction to help keep your mind and imagination busy! The following authors can help do just that. They are established authors with solid series to keep you immersed for hours of reading pleasure.
The first is Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series. The sleuth/heroine Phryne is introduced in Cocaine Blues. Her first case leads her to Australia at the height of the roaring twenties. The scenery is lush, the dialogue is witty and there is plenty of action. Phryne is not the typical young woman of the time: she’s been in the war and is a skilled pilot as well as a race car driver. She is very wealthy but grew up poor and appreciates all the good things her money can buy. Phryne doesn’t have the usual detective sidekick; rather she has an entourage composed of her lady’s maid, her two drivers, and a dour police inspector. They all pull together to solve mysteries in a most delightful fashion. There are currently 20 books in the series.
The next author is J. D. Robb and the In Death series featuring Lt. Eve Dallas in a futuristic world circa 2058. There are currently 50 books in the series, with the first being Naked In Death and the last, Golden in Death. If it’s hard to picture what life will be like post-pandemic, this series takes a leap into a very colorful, gritty, and tech-driven future which is one possibility. Lt. Dallas has a troubled past which could have led her into a life of crime but instead led her to be in charge of a homicide unit and do her best to speak for the dead by relentlessly hunting down murderers. She is helped in her endeavors by her sidekick Delia Peabody and the series love interest, Roark. There is definitely character development throughout the series so starting at the beginning with the first book is probably a good idea. The books are fun, fast paced, and gripping with a little bit of romance and sexiness without being graphic or gross.
The third series is the brainchild of Louise Penny and features Chief Inspector Armand Gamache as the main character. The series begins with Still Life and so far is up to 16 books. The novels take place in Canada, primarily, Quebec, although various cases take Gamache and his sidekick and son-in-law, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, to many locales. This series is probably the most literary of the three mentioned here. The author’s language is rich and the characters complex all the while weaving together complicated plots and surprising twists in remarkably good mystery writing. There is a little village described in the books called Three Pines which can’t be found on any map but which is definitely a place one ends up wanting to visit for the bookshop, the local restaurant, and the scenery.
These book series and many more are available to you via the Enoch Pratt Free Library ‘s digital collection. Happy reading!
Are you thinking of a light-hearted mystery, with people you would like to be your neighbors? Are you thinking it might be fun to make a new recipe for snacks or dinner? You can have your book and recipes too. These books are available for e-books in Maryland’s Overdrive.
Diane Mott Davidson brings us a series featuring Goldy Bear, a caterer who always seems to be involved in solving homicides. In Killer Pancakes, Goldy is catering a cosmetic company’s company banquet when a murder occurs. Goldy juggles the banquet and sleuthing for some fun moments. The mystery is solved, as are all of Davidson’s mysteries. Included in this book are low-fat recipes for Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus and a decadent Fudge Souffle. Yum.
InDying for Chocolate, Goldy leaves her abusive husband and works as a caterer at a country club. A handsome psychiatrist, that Goldy has been dating, crashes his car into an oncoming car and dies. Convinced this was not accidental, she shifts into detective mode to solve this crime. This book has many high calorie recipes including one for Scouts Brownies. The recipe is found below.
Having met Goldy and visited her world you will be hungry for more books and Davidson is kind enough to serve them up. If you need more recipes try Goldy’s Kitchen Cookbook.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter 3 ½ ounces best-quality unsweetened chocolate (recommended brands: Callebaut or Valrhona – available at Williams-Sonoma) 3 tablespoons dark European-style unsweetened cocoa (recommended brand: Hershey’s Premium European-Style) 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 4 eggs 2 cups sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extrac 1 cup chocolate chips (recommended brand: Mrs. Field’s)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter with unsweetened chocolate in top of double boiler, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool. Sift together cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat eggs until creamy, then gradually add sugar, beating constantly. Add vanilla and cooled chocolate-butter mixture. Stir in dry ingredients just until combined. Spread batter in buttered 9 by 13 inch pan. Sprinkle chips over surface. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until center no longer jiggles when shaken. Cool, then cut into 32 pieces. Makes 32 brownies