Shelfish: The Blog of Answers

Bill Gates’ Favorite Books of 2016

A couple of times a year, Microsoft founder and noted bibliophile Bill Gates makes a list of his favorite recent reads.

This winter, his list of favorites from 2016 reveals Gates’ continuing curiosity and desire to learn.

String Theory by David Foster Wallace
Gathered for the first time in a deluxe collector’s edition, here are David Foster Wallace’s legendary writings on tennis, five tour-de-force pieces written with a competitor’s insight and a fan’s obsessive enthusiasm. Wallace brings his dazzling literary magic to the game he loved as he celebrates the other-worldly genius of Roger Federer; offers a wickedly witty dissection of Tracy Austin’s memoir; considers the artistry of Michael Joyce, a supremely disciplined athlete on the threshold of fame; resists the crush of commerce at the U.S. Open; and recalls his own career as a junior player.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Now, for the first time ever, in a memoir that’s candid, humble, startling, funny, and beautifully crafted, Nike Founder Phill Knight tells his story at last. He begins with his crossroads moment: twenty-four years old, backpacking around the world, wrestling with life’s Great Questions, he decides the unconventional path is the only one for him. Rather than work for a big corporation, he will create something all his own, something new, dynamic, different.

The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Siddhartha Mukherjee has a written a biography of the gene as deft, brilliant, and illuminating as his extraordinarily successful biography of cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies. Weaving science, social history, and personal narrative to tell us the story of one of the most important conceptual breakthroughs of modern times, Mukherjee animates the quest to understand human heredity and its surprising influence on our lives, personalities, identities, fates, and choices.

The Myth of the Strong Leader by Archie Brown
In this magisterial and wide-ranging survey of political leadership over the past hundred years, renowned Oxford politics professor Archie Brown challenges the widespread belief that strong leaders – meaning those who dominate their colleagues and the policy-making process – are the most successful and admirable.

The Grid by Gretchen Bakke
America’s electrical grid, an engineering triumph of the twentieth century, is turning out to be a poor fit for the present. It’s not just that the grid has grown old and is now in dire need of basic repair. Today, as we invest great hope in new energy sources–solar, wind, and other alternatives–the grid is what stands most firmly in the way of a brighter energy future. If we hope to realize this future, we need to re-imagine the grid according to twenty-first-century values.

Take Your Library Wherever You Go

Well, the holiday shopping season is here in full force. Yesterday was the notorious Black Friday, when shoppers lined up at stores across the country to get deep discounts on computers, TVs, and all kinds of other great stuff. Next week is Cyber Monday, when online retailers offer similar deals without the inconvenience of even leaving the house.

This year some of the most popular sale items include eReaders and tablets. In fact, at, the popular 7″ Kindle Fire eReader/tablet is on sale right now for only $33.33.

If you pick up a Kindle this week, you’d be wise to start using Media on Demand, one of Eisenhower’s digital media services. Once you sign in with your Eisenhower Library card and PIN, connect your new Media on Demand account with your Amazon account and you can start borrowing eBooks to read on your Kindle right away.

If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry. Media on Demand eBooks come in lots of formats for many different eReaders, tablets, and even phones. Plus, there’s a free Kindle App available in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store that will turn almost any mobile device into a high quality eReader compatible with library eBooks.

If you need help with your new device, we’re here to help. Stop by the Answers Desk or call 708-867-2299 and we’ll walk you through setting up accounts and borrowing books. Once you start using Media on Demand, you won’t believe the convenience. On next Black Friday, you’ll be sitting at home reading a best seller instead of going out in the cold to shop.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

This week, on New Music Friday, I'm recommending the brand new LP from Nathaniel Rateliff and his band the Night Sweats. This record is the most exciting thing I've heard in a long time. It's a perfect melting pot of pure American music, mixing a little bit of folk with a dash of singer-songwriter introspection, a bit of bar band swagger, some white boy blues, barbershop harmonies, classic R&B, a little bit of gospel, and a whole lot of Southern Soul.

It's the soul influence that stands out the most. Nathaniel Rateliff's voice is reminiscent of Van Morrison, but the band is pure Stax Records, fitting since the the album comes courtesy of that legendary label, home to Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Booker T. & the M.G.'s.

If you're a sucker for anything with a horn section, you're going to love Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. To download or stream the record at, just log in with your Eisenhower Library card number and PIN (try the last four digits of your phone number or call 708-867-2299 for a PIN reminder) and start listening right away.

Prefer a CD? Place a hold in the library catalog.

How to Be Like Rory Gilmore

Your favorite idiosyncratic family of fast-talking ladies is back with Netflix’s revival of Gilmore Girls. If you weren’t a fan during its original 2000-2007 run, you’re probably not going to be interested in the four all new, ten-years-later, 90 minute episodes available to view on Netflix starting today. If you were a fan, you probably know that single mom Lorelai Gilmore was raising her teenage daughter to be quite a bookworm. Over the course of the shows seven seasons, Rory read or talked about 339 specific books.

In 2013, writer and Gilmore-fan, Patrick Lenton compiled a list of the all those books and created the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge to encourage himself to break out of his bad reading habits and try out some books that he’d never read otherwise.

The list is full of classics and some not-so-classics, but they’re all worth a shot. Here are some of my favorites, all available in the Eisenhower collection.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

I’m sure the Reading Challenge list will grow after we’ve all had a chance to watch the new episodes. I’ll add an update after finding out what Rory’s been reading lately.


After binge watching the new episodes, I'm happy to report that Rory has been busy, not reading, but writing. Her friends and family are still heavy readers though, so here are a few of the literary references from Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

Episode One: Winter

Lorelai digs through Rory's luggage looking for a prequel to Huckleberry Finn. At Richard's funeral a copy of Leaves of Grass is given a place of honor on to of his casket alongside Euclid's Elements and others. When she learns that Rory is essentially homeless Lorelai tries to see the bright side comparing her daughter's life to On the Road. To cope with her husband's death, Emily Gilmore begins purging her possessions, influenced by The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up.
Episode Two: Spring
Rory's friend Paris mentions The Art Of War in a lecture to students. David Foster Wallace and his famous essay Consider The Lobster come up at an interview. 
Episode Three: Summer
Lorelai is relaxing poolside reading Cheryl Strayed's Wild while Rory reads Anna Karenina. Stars Hallow's resident playright claims to have been mentored by Edward Albee, author of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? Rory mentions Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman in a very obscure insult.
Episode Four: Fall
Wild comes up again as Lorelai attempts to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She also compares her mother's never-evolving nature to that of Dorian Gray's. Jess, one of Rory's exes, is seen reading My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard.

OK Go: The One Moment

Musicians and video artists OK Go are back today with another ultra-complicated, high concept, music video. This time they took the basic theme of their song “The One Moment” and really blew it up (figuratively and literally). The entire video was filmed, as the title suggests, in one moment. Using complicated math and computer controlled cameras, the few seconds of film were slowed down to sync up perfectly with the four minutes of music. It’s another astounding feat in a series of astounding feats from OK Go.

The whole video was made in partnership with Morton Salt, who are launching a new campaign, Walk Her Walk, which encourages all of us to use our talents to make a positive impact on the world. The first step in the campaign is the support by Morton Salt of five difference-making organizations: ProjectArt, which is working to offer free art classes throughout the country’s public libraries, Thirst Project, empowering students to bring solutions to the global water crisis, GirlForward, serving adolescent refugee girls through mentoring, educational programs, and leadership, Music Unites, transforming inner-city landscapes by empowering urban youth through music, and The HAPPY Organization, improving health and wellness of children and families through advocacy about nutrition and lifestyle.

“The One Moment” comes from OK Go’s album Hungry Ghosts which is available on CD in the library catalog.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom

Tonight, President Obama awarded 21 Americans the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In his own words, "The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honor - it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better. From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way."

The recipients included basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, actor Robert De Niro, architect Frank Gehry, computer scientist Margaret H. Hamilton, actor Tom Hanks, musicians Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross, among others. Find the entire list of honorees at

The most moving moment of the ceremony came when the President presented Ellen DeGeneres with the Medal. 

Let's look back at Ellen's career with a standup comedy special, the groundbreaking fourth season of her sitcom, and of course, Finding Nemo and Finding Dory.

The 2016 Game Awards

Every year since 1929, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes excellence in cinematic achievement as assessed by the Academy's voting membership. We call it the Oscars, or the Academy Awards.

Every year sing 2014, The Game Awards has recognized creative, technical, and gameplay excellence in the video game industry. Nominees and winners for are selected by 29 "global media and influencer outlets". There a bunch of categories for games to be nominated in. For instance, Best Action Game, Best Mobile/Handheld Game, and Best Game for Impact, a category of games that take on social issues. I'm just going to list out the nominees for Game of the Year and you can look up all the other categories for yourself. So without further ado:

The first major installment in the Doom franchise since 2004, this year's Doom is just as scary as the rest of the series. You play a space marine on a Mars colony fighting demons released from hell.
Playstation 4 - Xbox One

With its beautiful unique look, the sequel to Limbo is a 2D puzzle game that is intriguing, terrifying, mysterious, and masterful. Inside is currently available as a download game only.

A team-based multiplayer shooter from the people who gave us World of Warcraft, in Overwatch you play a member of an international task force created to combat robots that have turned against humanity.
Playstation 4 - Xbox One

Titanfall 2
With its single-player and multi-player gameplay, Titanfall 2 is said to have improved on it predecessor. In a future war, rifleman Jack Cooper hopes to advance in the ranks and become a mech pilot, operating a large fighting robot.
Playstation 4 - Xbox One

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Supposedly the last game in the Uncharted series, part four puts our hero, Nathan Drake, a Lara Croft-esque adventurer, back into action when his brother Sam re-appears after years when was supposedly dead.
Playstation 4

I'm personally a pretty casual gamer and I haven't played any of these games so I can't attest to their quality. However if 29 influencer outlets like them, I guess they must be pretty good.

Washington Post's Top Ten Books of 2016

The onslaught of best-of-the-year lists continues. This time The Washington Post has collected it's top ten books of 2016. There are a few surprises alongside some familiar titles.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar

Rogue Heroes by Ben Macintyre

Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

The Trespasser by Tana French

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

More for Jack Reacher Fans

Jack Reacher ShortsA few weeks ago I wrote about my affection for the Jack Reacher books. I like them because they're stripped-down, fast-paced, and quick-to-read. Even quicker are the short stories by Reacher author Lee Child. These stories were written for collections, magazine publication, and even as sort singles for's Kindle eBook store. Some have been included in certain editions of Reacher novels and others are nearly impossible to find in print.

As a new eReader user, I was recently looking into Eisenhower's digital materials service Media on Demand and was pleasantly surprised to find a few of Lee Child's short stories and novellas available to borrow as eBooks and digital audiobooks. If you've made it through the entire run of 21 Reacher novels, and can't wait for number 22, I'd suggest taking a look at these short Reacher adventures. When available in any format I'll include a link where you can check these stories out.

Small Wars - This short story takes us back to the 80s when a young Reacher, still in the Army is tasked with investigating the murder of a wealthy lieutenant colonel. In it, we get some surprising insight into Reacher's brother Joe. Available as an eBook and digital audiobook.

The Picture of the Lonely Diner - From the Mystery Writers of America collection edited by Mary Higgins Clark, Manhattan Mayhem. In this story, Reacher has a run in with the FBI. Manhattan Mayhem is available as an eBook, or a print book.

James Penney's New Identity - Originally available as a digital single in the United Kingdom. This short one was later included inThriller, a collection available as a print book or an audiobook on CD

Guy Walks into a BarOriginally available as a digital single in the United Kingdom, available to read now on the New York Times website.

Everyone Talks - Published in the June 2012 issue of Esquire and as a bonus to the UK hardback edition of Never Go Back. So far, Everyone Talks is the only Reacher story told from another character's point of view. This one is available to read on the website of Penguin Random Houe Austrailia.

Not a Drill - Available as a digital single, in audio or as bonus with US paperback edition of Personal, Not a Drill is a pretty thin story that finds Reacher exploring the limits of the United States by hitchiking to the Canadian border with a trio of treehuggers who might be more than they seem. Available to borrow as an eBook and a digial audiobook.

Good and Valuable Consideration - A collaboration with author Joseph Finder whose character Nick Heller joins forces with Reacher. Available as an eBook, and in the collection FaceOff in large type and on CD.

High Heat - It is 1977 and Reacher is in New York City to visit CBGBs, shut down a mobster, and turn in evidence that will lead to the capture of the Son of Sam. All in a days work for a 17 year old. Available as a eBook, as a digital audiobook, or as bonus with the US paperback edition of Never Go Back.

Deep Down - In the late 80s, a soldier is selling military secrets and Reacher goes undercover to reveal the traitor. Available as a eBook, as a digital audiobook or as bonus with US paperback edition of A Wanted Man.

Second Son - A 13-year-old, but fully formed Reacher saves the reputations of his brother and his father. Available as a eBook, as a digital audiobook or as bonus with US paperback edition of The Affair.


Watching football on Thanksgiving has become a sort of modern tradition. But I'd like to propose an even newer tradtion.

About two years ago, in November of 2014, my wife and I went to the movie theater to see Paddington. We were less than underwhelmed by the trailer but thought we'd give the movie a chance anyway. What a great decision. Over the course of 90 minutes we were won over by the sweet, polite, and somewhat clumsy bear who travels to London and finds a new home with the Brown family. Directed by Paul King, best known for the cultish British TV series The Mighty BooshPaddington is smart and stylish and multilayered in a way that most family movies (not produced by Pixar) don't bother to be.

Paddington Bear is essentially a refugee. He's a kid who has lost his family and his home and he just needs someone to look after him. The Browns aren't planning to take in a new family member but they see a bear in need and they do the right thing. In our film screening, toward the end of the movie when Paddington is climbing a chimney to escape from a vilainous taxidermist, the entire audience was on the edge of our seats. An audible gasp filled the theater when Paddington lost his grip and threatened to fall to his death. We had entered into the theater expecing a dumb kids movie and suddenly we were in love with a computer generated bear, hoping that he'd escape death and live happily ever after with his new family. It was kind of magical.

So this Thanksgiving, after filling up on turkey, why not skip the footbal game and give the little bear from "Darkest Peru" a chance. You and your family might learn a lesson about kindness, generousity, and being welcoming to those different from you. Isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about?

Paddington is available to stream on your computer or mobile device at Just log in with your Eisenhower Library Card and PIN and start watching right away. Don't know your PIN? Try the last four digits of your phone number or give the Answers Desk a call at 708-867-2299 for assistance.

Prefer a DVD? Click here to place a hold now.