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Crystal Chong

Crystal is a recent college graduate who is excited to finally be reading books for pleasure and not just for English class! She is particularly drawn to narrative nonfiction, including memoirs and social and cultural histories. She also loves perusing picture books and children's fiction. She works as a librarian at the Reisterstown Branch.

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Crystal

Sex Object

posted by: August 15, 2016 - 9:00am

Cover art for Sex ObjectDoes sexism still exist? Sure, men and women are different. We always will be, biologically speaking. At first glance, women can surely do all of the things that men do in society. We can work, we can vote, we don’t “have to” be mothers and housewives. What more could we want? Where is the sexism? It’s there, and though it may have improved since the days of our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers, we still need feminism. Widely acclaimed feminist writer Jessica Valenti reintroduces sexism in a different light and gives feminism a fresh approach in her newest book, Sex Object.

 

Sex Object is a memoir written in an organic, rather than chronological, structure. Valenti recounts the moments where sexism has affected her at all different ages and areas of her life, from the time she was in high school and her teacher asked her out, to her 20s when countless men would expose themselves to her on the subway, to the emails and responses she has gotten on her website, Feministing.com.

 

Valenti’s writing is realistic, raw and emotionally empowering. All women have all been where she has been, sexualized and objectified by men, but we don’t often think to call it “wrong” so much as “annoying.” Valenti’s message is not just that sexism is bad or that we should use feminism to fight it. It’s that sexism is so prevalent, so normalized every day, that we need feminism in order to recognize it. Valenti’s book is a great read for a new generation of feminists who understand that our responsibility is not to be victims, but to be voices. We do not necessarily need to fight, but we need to be aware.


 
 

Sleeping Giants

posted by: August 1, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover art for Sleeping GiantsSleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel is a captivating new science fiction novel about a giant metal robot whose parts are strewn across different parts of the earth and the physicist determined to uncover its origins and purpose. Dr. Rose Franklin encountered the robot firsthand when she was a young girl. She was riding her bike when, suddenly, she fell through the ground and into the palm of a giant metal hand. Rose slowly learns that the hand is just one of many robot parts being discovered around the world, but it’s not clear what these robots were meant for. Making human lives easier? Destroying human lives? The story is told in journal entries, interviews and transcripts, so the reader feels the suspense of trying to piece the story together. Each interviewer and interviewee shares a new perspective to this mystery, and the results unfold at a thrilling pace.

 

This novel is engaging and moves quickly. Its realistic premise makes it a great read for fans of The Martian and science fiction lovers. Although the scientific and robotic concepts are realistic, the language and style of the story are easily digestible. Neuvel has an education in linguistics and a background as a software engineer, so his story is fun to both read and speculate about. It's the first book in a new series, so readers who enjoy this book can look forward to the next installment Walking Gods, coming out in April 2017.

 


 
 

No Baggage

posted by: July 13, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover art fo No BaggageTraveling to a different country can be scary and exciting, but when you’re doing it with a person you just met on an online dating site, it becomes an adventure. No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering is a memoir by Clara Bensen about her traveling adventure through eight countries in three weeks. Her traveling partner Jeff is a university professor she met on OkCupid just a few weeks before their trip.

 

Clara describes herself as quiet and reserved, while Jeff has a personality “bigger than Texas.” After a few magical dates and undeniable chemistry, Clara agrees to accompany Jeff on his upcoming trip to Istanbul. In addition to agreeing on a spur-of-the-moment trip, they decide to fully embrace their spontaneity by purchasing plane tickets and ending the planning there — no hotel reservations, no concrete plans, no luggage. It’s certainly a risk, but it’s one that this young couple is willing to take.

 

This book is a refreshing love story about romance in the digital age. Clara describes her relationship with Jeff as “all very modern.” No need to define or question anything; just going with the flow and falling into the rhythm of being with one another. Of course, there are some snares in their honeymoon-like trip, but Clara’s anxiety and worry about the future slowly melt away as she learns to accept and appreciate each moment in front of her — from the warm sea air of beaches in Turkey to the olive trees and burnt grass in Greece. Readers who enjoy thoughtful travel memoirs such as Eat, Pray, Love or Under the Tuscan Sun will love this warm and inspiring travel tale.


 
 

Smarter Faster Better

posted by: June 14, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover art for Smarter Faster BetterWhen it comes down to it, few people understand or even think about the difference between being productive and being busy. If we get as many tasks done in the day as we can, are we really being productive? Charles Duhigg explains why productivity and busyness are not synonymous in his newest book Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. As the title suggests, we should be striving to be fully productive in our day-to-day tasks, rather than looking at them as a list of chores that need to be done as quickly as possible. True productivity fosters creativity, motivation and inspiration. It’s not just about completing tasks — it’s about fully doing tasks.

 

Duhigg shares his eight principles to true productivity: motivation, teams, focus, goal setting, managing others, decision making, innovation and absorbing data. Each principle has an anecdote about some sort of team, business or group that was on the brink of failure until they learned to fully harness their productivity. For example, under “teams,” by looking at the comedians on Saturday Night Live, Duhigg explains that the way team members interact with one another is far more important than who is actually on the team. Duhigg uses the term “psychological safety” to prove why that interaction is so important: When team members are unafraid to fail or be judged, they can be fully productive and share ideas without concern. Duhigg’s real-life examples make this non-fiction book a thought-provoking and narrative read. He favors drawings over diagrams and quotations over statistics, breaking down the psychological density of the topic so that readers can easily apply his productivity principles to their daily lives. Ultimately, this is a motivational and engaging read, perfect for anyone striving for self-improvement or fulfillment.


 
 

A Burglar’s Guide to the City

posted by: June 8, 2016 - 7:00am

A Burglar's Guide to the CityLogic. Problem-solving. Engineering. Physics. Architects have used these skills to create safe and accessible buildings for centuries. At the same time, burglars have been using these skills to figure out how to break into houses and buildings for an equally long time. A Burglar’s Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh is written through the eyes and perspective of history’s most successful burglars. Manaugh writes, teaches and lectures on architecture, but he captures the thoughts, motives and passion of burglars with engaging, narrative prose in his book.

 

He begins with the story of notorious architect-turned-burglar George Leonidas Leslie, who used his architectural skills to perform hundreds of robberies in New York City in the late 1800s. The city was just beginning its development as a metropolis of wealth and affluence during the Industrial Revolution, and Leslie used this economic development to his advantage as he asked fellow architects about the structure of new buildings in the city. By gaining deeper architectural insight on the buildings he wanted to rob, he could create models and rehearse with his team, what Manaugh calls “the art of burglary.” A good burglar and a good architect both need impeccable attention to detail, and Manaugh writes of Leslie’s fervent planning and scheming with similar perspicacity.

 

Manaugh moves forward in history with other examples of burglaries to show that while buildings and security systems may change over time, it only inspires deeper and more complex problem-solving from burglars, reaping a bigger thrill and adrenaline rush as the stakes get higher. In addition, he writes of how architects have begun to anticipate crime in their building designs. Casinos are being designed specifically so that security cameras can be installed in ways that maximize their visual field while minimizing their noticeability. In the vast span of burglar history, Manaugh takes the reader deep into both the criminals and setting, showing how they work for and against each other in this entertaining nonfiction read.


 
 

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