by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on February 18th, 2016
by Heidi Kuchta on February 17th, 2016
Hidden behind the searchable internet world, there exists a network of sites that requires specific servers, browsers, or codes to access. These “dark” areas of the internet are commonly associated with bad behavior, crime, and even terrorism. British author Jamie Bartlett is not here to launch arguments in favor of censorship and surveillance, but rather provides an overview of the dark net. In this book, which came out to rave reviews in May 2015, Bartlett breaks down the dark net for the person wanting to broach the many ethical quandaries the internet provides. If you want an introduction to some of the controversies of living in a digital age, I definitely recommend you check this book out! I especially enjoyed the chapter highlighting the dark net war between the anti-immigrant British Nationalists and the group Antifa – short for “Antifascism.”
Also of particular interest was the brief discussion at the end of the book about transhumanism – a philosophy that embraces the digital age for all of the sophisticated ways it can enhance the human experience. Some computer geeks have already implanted experimental computer chips inside of their own bodies, something that seems sci-fi but is now reality. Also, apparently some of the leading transhumanist thinkers believe that by the middle of this century we will have the capability to upload the contents of our brains onto a digital interface! This is both scary and fascinating – I will most certainly be reading more about these transhumanists.
At the heart of The Dark Net is a cautionary tale: Yes, the internet is amazing, but it can also be vile and scary – much like humanity. I do recommend this book, but with certain warnings. The book opens with a story about a girl whose life is ruined for sport by internet “trolls” (full explanation and history of trolling included.) There is also a whole chapter about pornography, which I can fully understand some would rather skip over. This is not an appropriate book for kids, but it also isn’t terribly graphic. The book is interested in looking at how the dark net has changed the digital landscape – not glorifying particular aspects of the dark net. Just be prepared for frank discussions.
by Brian Visser on February 17th, 2016
Last year, Marvel got the Star Wars comics license back from publisher Dark Horse. The move made sense since Marvel and Lucasfilm are both owned by Disney (corporate synergy!). Marvel put some of their best writers and artists on the first three comics–Star Wars, Darth Vader and Princess Leia–and the results were (mostly) fantastic. My favorite, by far, was the Darth Vader comic written by
Darth Vader is one of my favorite characters of all time. He’s the best bad guy there is. My love began early when I was drawn to an over-sized Darth Vader action figure at my babysitter’s house. I vividly remember clutching it when confined to a playpen. I didn’t watch the movies until years later, but Vader had already made his mark. Because of this, I was hesitant about the Darth Vader comic. What if they didn’t do justice to the best bad guy there is? Thankfully, I didn’t need to be worried.
Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 1 takes place after Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Vader is disgraced after failing to stop an unknown Rebel pilot from destroying the Death Star. The Emperor demotes him and assigns an agent to monitor him. Vader, in an effort to get back on top, recruits a rogue techno archaeologist named Doctor Aphra. Aphra specializes in droids, and Vader catches up with her after she has activated Triple-Zero and BT-1, which are basically murderous versions of C-3P0 and R2-D2. Vader wants to know what the Emperor is planning next, and there are a lot of double-crosses along the way.
One of my biggest issues with Star Wars comics is that the characters don’t sound like themselves. The writers can never quite get their voices right. Vader is a man of few words, and when he speaks, you listen. Gillen nails that, and I can almost hear James Earl Jones booming voice in the dialog. Also, the artists usually screw up the helmet and make him look derpy. Salvador Larocca couldn’t do a better job, though. I highly recommend Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 1 to any Star Wars fan.
by Anne Mangano on February 16th, 2016
I am a devout listener to the podcast You Must Remember This, which is quite terrific if you love classic movies and tales from old Hollywood. I highly recommend it. Last month, the podcast went on break and I was left filling a void as big as an “O” in the Hollywood sign. I filled it with fiction.
In Adriana Trigiani’s All the Stars in the Heavens, Sister Alda Ducci, forced to leave her convent, is hired to be the personal secretary of Loretta Young. The twenty-year old film star is in the middle of making Man’s Castle, but also in the middle of a relationship with Spencer Tracy. Both Young and Tracy are Catholic; Tracy is married. It doesn’t work out. Disappointment and heartbreak abound. But that only sets us up for the real drama: Loretta Young is chosen to star in The Call of the Wild with Clark Gable. The novel mainly focuses on what happens between Young and Gable as they film on location, as well as the fallout of their relationship. Trigiani individualizes each character and relationships are not portrayed as tawdry or depraved as the rumor mill at the time would make them out to be. I appreciated that Alda was a fully developed, interesting character, rather than just service as the framing for the Young/Gable vehicle. It is also a well-written, solid read and it left me wanting more.
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by Melody Dworak on February 10th, 2016
So Donald Trump won the New Hampshire primary last night and racked up 10 delegates. If you love the media frenzy around this unconventional presidential candidate, check out Esquire’s February cover article, “Hater in Chief.” Behind a paywall everywhere else, you can check it out digitally through ICPL’s digital magazine collection Zinio. Have your library card and password ready and go to www.icpl.org/zinio/ to log in and download that grumpy, frowny face.
by Heidi Kuchta on February 10th, 2016
What drew me to My Documents (McSweeney’s, 2015) was the cover art: a boy climbing among file cabinets, keyboard, wires, and computer monitors. So appropriate for the title! I wanted to try out a newer short story collection by an author I’ve never read. What I have gained is a sudden appreciation for Alejandro Zambra, a Chilean writer whose stories blend whimsy, dark humor, and general strangeness against the backdrop of Chile’s recent history. Fans of Junot Diaz (author of The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her) will definitely enjoy this book – I found they had a similar, honest and to-the-point writing style. Details of what it was like to live under Pinochet’s dictatorship are threaded through the stories. Family, Catholicism, and various types of vice are frequently visited topics in the stories. My favorite was “True or False,” a story about a father and son as they grapple over what to do about an unwanted litter of kittens. The collection was a quick and engaging read, and has me wanting to check out Zambra’s earlier stuff, like Ways of Going Home, his novel that was released in the U.S. in 2013.
by Melody Dworak on February 8th, 2016
I can’t stop talking about this memoir of African American life and prison life in the 19th Century. The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict by Austin Reed is “the first known prison narrative by an African American writer,” editor Caleb Smith wrote in the Yale Alumni magazine. The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library purchased the manuscript, and Random House published it as a book this winter.
This book is a remarkable find. Perfect for history buffs, rare manuscript nerds, and African American prison researchers, this book was written by an African American man born free in the 1820s but living much of his life in confinement. Reed was a natural storyteller and his memoir reads like a novel. He documents his experiences both in prison and as a free man, the cruelties of the whip and other 19th Century torture tactics as well as adventures and opportunities he encountered while living free.
This book has not received a ton of press at this point. The New York Times highlighted the find in 2013 before the manuscript was edited for publication, and the Smithsonian Magazine picked up the story for its arts and culture section. It doesn’t have a long holds list and we’ll be buying the e-book and e-audio versions soon.
If there is one nonfiction book you read in 2016, make it Austin Reed’s groundbreaking memoir.
by Melody Dworak on February 5th, 2016
The next Project Green Second Sunday Forum is on Valentine’s Day—Sunday, February 14, 2016. Jonathan Poulton will present on Daylillies—Past, Present, and Future. If you can’t wait until then to get your garden on, but also don’t want to go out into the cold, visit the ICPL Zinio collection, where you can look through 18 different home and garden digital magazines.
Magazines are perfect for the weekend where you get to kick back a little more. Our gardening magazines include Country Garden, Better Homes & Gardens, Grit, and Successful Farming.
The January issue of Rodale’s Organic Life features the article “Grow from Scratch,” which includes a guide to growing plants from seeds and lovely illustrations.
ICPL has more than 150 digital magazines. They are available 24/7 through your computer or mobile device. After you log in with your Iowa City library card and password, you can check one out and flip through page by page just like a regular magazine. Reading magazines lets you kick back and relax, and enjoy big beautiful photographs and creative infographics.
Have questions about how to use our Zinio digital magazine collection? Ask a Librarian!
by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on February 4th, 2016
The Christmas frenzy is over and now it’s time to sit back and relax for one of my favorite personal holidays: Super Bowl Sunday. This year marks the 50th game and, of course, we have the books to commemorate this momentous occasion.
The Super Bowl: the First Fifty Years of America’s Greatest Game (2015) by David Fischer talks about most of the games and also includes insets such as “The Best Who Never Won”. Some highlights are lots of pictures and interesting statistics in the back. It can be a bit confusing since there is no index and it’s not written chronologically.
For that, I recommend The Ultimate Super Bowl Book by Bob McGinn. Since it was written in 2009, it only goes up to Super Bowl XLIII but in a lot more detail. Statistics, player and coach rosters, even the weather conditions are all listed. I especially enjoyed reliving one of my favorites: the Packers and the Patriots in XXXI.
Super Bowl: the Game of Their Lives (1997) by Danny Peary is also consecutive. Each game is recounted by one of the actual players. For example, the final chapter in the book is Super Bowl XXXI from the MVP Desmond Howard’s perspective. Since I’ve missed my chance to be a professional athlete 😉 it’s fantastic to play vicariously through these superstars’ eyes.
If you want to learn about how it all began, there’s When It was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl (2015) by Harvey Frommer. After a brief overview of the beginning of professional football, it moves quickly into how this annual tradition came to pass. Instead of footnotes, quotes from people who were there are interspersed within the usual text.
Lastly, The Pro Football Hall of Fame 50th Anniversary Book: Where Greatness Lives (2012) by Joe Horrigan and John Thorn spotlights many outstanding players including those who may not have made it to the Big Game. This is a coffee table book with a myriad of pictures and quotes. The reproductions of printed materials is especially fascinating. Each chapter is a decade so it’s easy to see the changes over the years.
The football season may be over but these books celebrate fandom all year long!