Category Archives: Articles

Come to our One Book One Marin Book Discussion!

atnightwewalkincirclescoverWe’re hosting a book group discussion for the One Book One Marin 2015 book, At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcon.

April 23rd at 7pm, Mill Valley Public Library. Please sign up here.

Led by our wonderful World Lit Book Club facilitator, you’ll have the chance to discuss Daniel Alarcon’s novel in a lively setting with other readers in your community! Come share your thoughts. Open to all.

We have ready-made book club kits, and we’ve created a list of discussion questions for At Night We Walk in Circles, too.

As you may know, One book One Marin 2015 is a county-wide book group, and it’s in full swing. Following this year’s kick-off program in February (with a wonderfully insightful author talk at Book Passage) and continuing on through May, Libraries throughout Marin County including the Mill Valley Public Library are offering book club kits and complimentary programming. For all of the events scheduled throughout the county, head to One Book One Marin.


What We Loved in 2014

read_loved_2014Mill Valley Public Library Staff Picks- What we Read and Loved in 2014


  • The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke (2007; read by Will Patton)
  • The Long Walk: a Story of War and the Life that Follows by Brian Castner (2012; read by the author)
  • Destiny of the Republic: a Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a Presidents by Candace Millard (2011; read by Paul Michael)
  • Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America by John Waters (2014; read by the author)
  • Selected Shorts: American Classics (2010; various readers)
  • Selected Shorts: Wondrous Women (2008; various readers)


  • Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton (2014)
  • The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming (2014)
  • The Reason I Jump: the Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy With Autism by Naoki Higashida, translated by David Mitchell (2013)
  • Jim Henson: the Biography by Brian Jay Jones (2013)
  • This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (2013)


  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (2014)
  • Jackaby by William Ritter (2014)
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2014; biography)


  • Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle (2014)
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)
  • We Are All Completely Beside Oursevles by Karen Joy Fowler (2013)
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991)
  • The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (2011
  • The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness (2014; last volume of All Souls trilogy)
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (1962)
  • California by Edan Lepucki (2014)
  • Orphan Train by Kristina Baker Kline (2013)
  • My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard (2013)
  • The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield (1922)
  • Transatlantic by Colum McCann (2013)
  • Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal (2014)
  • Pearl of China by Anchee Min (2010)
  • One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (2014)
  • Runaway: Stories by Alice Munro (2005)
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami (2014)
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (2014)
  • Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg (2014)
  • The Complete Stories of Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker (1995)
  • Delicious by Ruth Reichl (2014)
  • The Last Girlfriend on Earth and Other Love Stories by Simon Rich (2014)
  • China Dolls by Lisa See (2014)
  • Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead (2014)
  • Lost For Words by Edward St. Aubyn (2014)
  • A Bit on the Side by William Trevor (2004)
  • Hemingway by Naomi Wood (2014)

Graphic Novel:

  • Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? By Roz Chast (2014)
  • This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (2014)


  • You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty by Dave Barry (2014)
  • Food: a Love Story by Jim Gaffigan (2014)
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler (2014)


  • In the Moon of Red Ponies by James Lee Burke (2004)
  • The Quiet Game by Greg Iles (1999)
  • Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman (2013)
  • The Handsome Man’s Delux Café by Alexander McCall Smith (2014)


  • The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir (1989; philosophy)
  • The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (2013; sports)
  • Farm City: the Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter (2009; urban farming)
  • Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals by Karen Dawn (2008; animal rights)
  • The Public Library: a Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson (2014; libraries, photography)
  • Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay (2014; gender studies)
  • Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory: the Complete Story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket, and Roald Dahl’s Greatest Creation by Lucy Mangan (2014; literary creations)
  • The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books by Azar Nafisi (2014; reading & teaching)
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma: a Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan (2006; food)
  • Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte (2014; parenting)
  • All Joy and No Fun: the Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior (2014; parenting)
  • Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (2014; gender studies)

Sci Fi/Fantasy:

  • The Martian by Andy Weir (2014)
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (2013)


  • I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (2014)

Young Adult:

  • Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (2014)
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (1967)
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2014)
  • How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon (2014)
  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Judy Nelson (2014)
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011)
  • Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (2014)
  • My Abandonment by Peter Rock (2009)
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)
  • She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgewick (2014)
  • The Leviathan Series by Scott Westerfeld (2009)
  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (2006)

Book Awards Update!

red-sparrow-book-coverFor the Man Booker 2014 Award, Richard Flanagan came out on top with his highly lauded novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North. The book revolves around a love story set during the building of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in World War II.

For the 2014 Edgar Awards–given by the Mystery Writers of America to the best talent in the mystery genre– Best Novel went to William Kent Kreuger for his mystery, Ordinary Grace. Kreuger examines one Methodist family’s relationships and secrets in small-town Minnesota during the 1960s. The Best First Novel award went to Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews in which we follow a Russian spy agent, Dominika Ergorova, a synesthete who can perceive colors as sounds and who is tasked with uncovering the identity of a CIA double-agent embedded in Russia’s secret service agency.

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.