Category Archives: Articles

2014 Pulitzer Prize for Letters, Drama, and Music

2014_PulitzerOne of the most prestigious awards to be given out in numerous categories, the world-renowned Pulitzer Prize was established in 1917. Ninety-seven years later, the Pulitzer is still held up as a symbol of intellectual excellence. So it’s with great pleasure that we share the list of 2014 award winners in the fields of Letters, Drama, and Music. Congratulations to all of the 2014 winners and nominees!

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction: Tom’s River: a Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin

Pulitzer Prize for History: The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1722-1832 by Alan Taylor

Pulitzer Prize for Biography: Margaret Fuller: a New American Life by Megan Marshall

Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: 3 Sections by Vijay Seshadri

2014 National Book Award Longlist

national_book_award_2014The Longlist of nominees for the 2014 National Book Award have been announced! Remember, the winner has yet to be decided. Take a look and consider checking out or putting yourself on the hold list for one of these beauties:



Holding Big Brother Accountable–one organization’s reading list

government_watchdogRecently, I came across the Project on Government Oversight (or POGO, as it is affectionately known). POGO was founded in 1981, where it first reported on extravagant military spending. POGO’s mission statement reads: “a non-partisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.” What’s more, POGO produces its own reading lists of books it deems important in the field of exposing government corruption. Check out their Summer 2014 Books That Matter reading list (hey, even if summer is over, there’s never a bad season for reading):

* Not in MARINet system

A Non-Traditional Award List for Teens Living in the Margins of Society

homeless-youthOne of the most amazing aspects of reading is the ability to discover and empathize with any and every experience you can possibly imagine. You can read up on people who are exactly like you, you can step into the skin of a being who has never existed in our world, or you can visit a place that once existed and now only continues to do so in ruins and fossilized records.The point is, you get to choose your own experiences. And they’re endless.

Sometimes we want to read about people who are similar to ourselves; it’s a way to understand the world and how we relate to it. After a while, though, you may want a change. I know that lately I’ve been craving stories that aren’t about lives similar to mine, but feature, in fact, a very different set of circumstances. Again, it’s a way to understand the world and how we relate to it. Maybe it’s a type of voyeurism. Maybe it’s a form of consolation. More likely, it’s genuine interest. It’s a desire to stretch my empathy; to expand my sense of experience (even though I’m not actually experiencing it. Thought to discuss at a latter date: what is the difference between reading about or watching an experience as opposed to living through it directly? What can indirect experiences teach us? What is the benefit?). Some have said it’s a form of self-punishment; the desire to dive into dark holes of despair and hopelessness. But there again, is the beauty: each of us gets to choose our own experiences. We may not be able to control much about our “real” lives, but we can sure choose the types of lives we want to explore in books.

For some of you, the following book list, which speaks to “teens living in poverty, on the streets, in custody, or a cycle of all three” will offer experiences you’re completely unfamiliar with or perhaps don’t care to read about. That’s fine. For those of you who sense something interesting, pursue it. Lists like this are important in that they allow all of us to see a group of people who, while facing significant and difficult challenges, are often invisible in everyday society. They help those of us who are familiar with the subject matter (teen incarceration, custody, poverty, homelessness) to work through our own experiences. They remind us that we’re not alone. At the same time, these lists help those of us who have (luckily) never had to deal with such experiences that there people out there not only facing them, but having to live with all of these challenges, daily. And whenever you step outside of your comfort zone, there’s valuable wisdom, experience, or insight to be gained.

The ASCLA has a Library Services for Youth in Custody group which advocates for youth who have been detained in various types of correctional institutes.These books are recommended for anyone who is interested in teens living in the margins of society. Check out their website for the complete list of 25 titles.

The 2014 top ten (of which Mill Valley Library carries 6) are:

An excellent resource for incarcerated youth, the Beat Within is a non-profit organization that works with juveniles in detention facilities to express their thoughts and feelings through words and art. Check out some pretty powerful and amazing work created by teens in the program on the Beat Within’s Facebook page.

2014 Man Booker Prize Longlist Announced!


The longlist of finalists for the prestigious 2014 Man Booker Award for best novel have been announced! In previous years, the Man Booker Award was only given to citizens of Great Britain or Commonwealth countries. In an open-minded and intelligent move, the chairing committee has opened up the award this year to any author who has written a novel in English, regardless of nationality. If you’re looking for some new novels, take a gander at the 13 talented candidates that have been chosen. (Please note that several titles are not yet in the MARINet system. These titles may have later US publication dates than their British counterparts.) In September, the committee will narrow down its candidates with an announced shortlist (brutally cutting players the way the World Cup cuts teams), and the winner of the Man Booker Award will be announced in October.


A Brief History of Mill Valley’s Steps, Lanes, and Paths

reading_challenge2A Brief Historic Overview of Mill Valley’s Steps, Lanes, and Paths:

During and directly after Mill Valley’s 1900 incorporation, a system of steps, lanes, and paths was developed to help many of Mill Valley’s residents as they made their way on foot or horseback downtown to catch the train or ferry into San Francisco. Initially, most paths were unnamed or given unofficial names; it wasn’t until 1931 when the Board adopted its “Official Street Naming and Numbering Map” that many of the paths finally received names and numbers.

Mill Valley’s network of paths was created piece by piece as land was sold and developed, so some paths benefited from more strategic planning and placement than others. Still, the routes served Mill Valley’s residents well for years as they made their way up and down the mountain, visiting with neighbors or heading home. Often, the responsibility for the upkeep of the trails traditionally fell to the residents of the surrounding area. Generous Mill Valley residents would gather together to clear brush, weed, and do basic repairs on the routes as funds from the town became available.

Once the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937, automobiles began to infiltrate the formerly pedestrian Mill Valley. As more citizens began to drive cars paths were less frequented and a number fell into disrepair, covered by brambles or rocks, while others succumbed to the elements and were worn away. Periodic attempts were made to preserve the paths over the next 63 years, though due to a variety of circumstances, very few paths remained in passable condition.

Since 2000, ongoing efforts have been made to reclaim and promote Mill Valley’s incredible network of paths. With the effort and support of Mill Valley’s residents, city council, parks and recreation staff, emergency preparedness committee, fire department, planning department, students from Tam High, Mt. Tamalpais School, and Saint Hilary’s, Dipsea Race participants, along with organizations such as the Rotary Club, Step-By-Step Volunteers, Outdoor Art Club members, the Mill Valley Historical Society, the Boy Scouts, Old Mill PTA, 21 public paths have been reopened.

The fire department has marked a number of streets with a blue “E” symbol as emergency escape routes, many of which can be accessed via a set of steps, a lane, or a path.

The Numbering System:

The first 76 numbered paths follow Mill Valley’s topography, starting on Miller Ave with Willow Path (path #1) and working north up along Miller through Cascade Canyon before crossing over Summit Ridge and travelling down Blithedale Canyon to the Alto Bowl area. These initial paths were catalogued in 1925 by Will Falley, Mill Valley’s first city manager. Later paths, numbering 101 and on, were catalogued by several different sources. Gaps in the numbering system are the result of different records being passed on from one source to another or paths which are not included in the current Mill Valley Steps, Lanes, and Paths map.

~Compiled from the official Guide map of Mill Valley Steps, Lanes, and Paths, 3rd ed. (The complete map can be purchased at the circulation desk for the hefty sum of $5)

You may also be interested in Robert Skip Sandberg’s Steps, Lanes, and Paths of Mill Valley.

Italian Mysteries

classic-venice From Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series to Steig Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, from Roslund & Hellstrom’s Ewert Grens series to Jussi Adler-Olsen Department Q series, and my personal favorite (particularly when listened to in audiobook form, narrated by the warm, husky voice of Robin Sachs) Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole mysteries, Scandinavian crime novels have been all the rage for the past few years. If you haven’t checked out Jussi Adler-Olsen or Jo Nesbo and you enjoy  perceptive, troubled detectives and extremely dark, psychologically twisted mysteries, do yourself a favor and pick up a book or two of their work. However, if you’re tired of the cold Scandinavian gloom and are looking for something similar, why not try heading south to the romantic and occasionally dangerous locale of Italy? To whet your appetite for fine Italian crime, consider the following:

  • The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri. The first book in the Inspector Salvo Montalbano series, set in a fictional Sicilian town. Touches of optimism peek through the gritty atmosphere.
  • Bandit Love by Massimo Carlotto. Set in Padua, Carlotto introduces hard-boiled noir detective, Mario Burratti, aka, the Alligator. A tale of corruption and revenge.
  • A Walk in the Dark by Gianrico Carofiglio. A legal thriller set in Bari, featuring defense attorney Guido Guerrieri. 2nd in the Guido Guerrieri series. Unexpected plot twists merge with clever, sharp writing.
  • Ratking by Michael Dibdin. The first in the Commissoner Aurelio Zen mystery series, set in Perugia. (Dibdin was born in Britain.) World-weary, cynical detective is balanced out with patches of dry humor.
  • The Crocodile by Maurizio de Giovanni. A noir detective novel featuring Sicilian Inspector Giuseppe Lojacono and set in Naples. Grim with memorable, lovelorn characters.
  • Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon. Queen of the Italian detective novel with a strong sense of place, Leon introduces Venetian police Commissario Guido Brunetti in the first of a long-running series. Exquisite descriptions and a world-weary, honest Detective.
  • Carte Blanche by Carlo Lucarelli. The first in the Commissario de Luca Trilogy, set in Italy as the tail-end of WWII. Gritty noir.
  • Death of an Englishman by Magdalen Nabb. The first installment of the Florence Inspector Marshal Guarnaccia series. (Nabb was an expatriate living in Italy.) Compassionate, self-effacing hero faces significant social and political troubles.
  • A Private Venus by Giorgio Scerbanenco. Scerbanenco has been called “the Godfather” of Italian Crime; here he introduces disbarred doctor Duca Lamerti, the anti-hero of the series set in Milan. Bleak with unforgettable characters.
  • To Each His Own by Leonardo Sciascia. An anti-hero mystery which provides an inside look at Sicilian life. A quick read with spare prose which delivers a powerful critique on Sicilian society.


Sex on the Reef Booklist

_DSC7981Below are the titles mentioned by our May 2014 First Friday speaker, Erika Woolsey, in her presentation “Sex on the Reef” about the sex life of coral in the Great Barrier Reef.

One Book One Marin Draws to a Close with Author Talk this Wednesday, 4/30

Garden innovators; Apr'13; Novella Carpenter, OaklandHello Fellow Readers! After 3 months of programming, blogging, and discussions surrounding the One Book One Marin 2014 pick, Farm City, our program officially comes to an end in the culminating ceremony at Dominican University. Join us at 7pm on Wednesday, 4/30, at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall for an insightful and lively conversation between Novella Carpenter and KQED’s Michael Krasny. The event is free and open to everyone!

While One Book One Marin may have ended, our blog is still very much alive and will be returning to a more general state of affairs. There will be more reading lists, more book news, more audiobook reviews. More, I tell you, more! So stay with us as we explore our bookwormed world.


One Book One Marin: Farm City & The Dangerous Side part II

OBOMpigsForgive the dereliction of duty–it’s been longer than intended since my last post for our One Book One Marin pick. Continuing on with the theme of the dangerous–or more painful–side of farming, we come to the fate of Big Guy and Little Girl.

Novella Carpenter does a wonderful job of pulling us in; she takes us from the beginning of her pig-raising adventure at the 4-H auction where she acquires Big Guy and Little Girl, to her various dumpster-diving forays in order to satiate the pigs’ voracious appetites. We follow Big Guy as he breaks free more than once from his pen to trot his ways towards a busy intersection, only to eventually be corralled back to his pen by helpful neighbors. In short, we laugh, snort, and begin to enjoy the pigs just as Novella does the same.

At the same time, Novella never ceases to remind herself (or us) that the pigs are, ultimately, for eating. Her musings on what pieces of the pig will make for what cut of meat, as well as what type of food to feed the pigs for the best flavor, remain matter-of-fact and unsentimental. She doesn’t kid us with sappy affection; this is a tough, urban-farming woman who’s trying  to raise her own dinner.

Still, one of the most difficult parts of the book to read occurs when we witness the cruel, rather blatant disregard with which Sheila, the butcher, treats Big Guy and Little Girl’s last few remaining moments. We know that Novella is incredibly interested in being through as much of the process of pig-butchering as possible; we know that she had planned to ask Sheila a number of questions related to the process. We know that she wanted to find the most humane,  respectful way to kill the pigs because she’s a decent person with a heart. In short, we know that this moment, after months of raising the pigs (which took an enormous amount of sweat and dedication), was incredibly important and meaningful to Novella. And then blonde-haired, impossible-to-reach Sheila dashes all her hopes with one careless hack job. My sympathy went out more towards the pigs, whose last moments I couldn’t and didn’t want to imagine–they had so trustingly piled off of Novella’s truck and into the cold warehouse, than Novella. I was glad though, to see the rage that Novella expressed upon learning of Sheila’s actions. I was also glad that throughout her whole pig-raising experience, but particularly in the post-butchering phase, Novella seemed appreciative of her pigs.

Novella’s Farm City experiences demonstrate just how much of a difference raising and appreciating one’s own food can make. Big Guy and Little Girl definitely contributed to Novella’s farming education. Through her pigs, Novella learnt a great deal about raising and butchering pigs; she gained an apprenticeship and friendship with a master chef through both of them; and she finally got to taste the work of her labor. We can see that urban farming can not only be difficult, it can be downright painful. It’s not a clean, glorious, easy feat; it’s a constantly evolving, fascinating struggle. It’s also an art.  We meet masters of the craft (the restaurant owner Chris Lee, City Slicker Farms’ Willow, and more) who clearly love what they do. What makes them, and Novella, stand out is the respect, knowledge, and admiration they share for their craft. They are all committed to understanding where their food comes from, and they all choose to be an active part of growing and preparing their food, rather than passive bystanders.  Novella’s experiences in Farm City show us a different approach to interacting with the natural world and understanding our place within it. A little more self-sufficiency could probably benefit all of us a great deal; we’ve just got to be willing to get a little bit dirty to do it.