Shelfish: The Blog of Answers

Watership Down

2016 really has been a terrible year for notable deaths. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Abe Vigoda, Edgar Mitchell, Umberto Eco, Harper Lee, George Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, George Martin, Garry Shandling, Patty Duke, Merle Haggard, Prince, Guy Clark, Muhammad Ali, Anton Yelchin, Michael Cimino, Garry Marshall, Kenny Baker, Fyvush Finkel, Bobby Hutcherson, Gene Wilder, Edward Albee, Curtis Hanson, Arnold Palmer, Leonard Cohen, Janet Reno, Leon Russell, Florence Henderson, Fidel Castro, Ron Glass, John Glenn, Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Liz Smith, George Michael, and today, Carrie Fisher.

But today I learned that author Richard Adams died on Christmas Eve, and it really hit me hard.

I was always a reader. My mom read to me every night and taught me to read along. I became a fixture in the school library, checking out Encyclopedia Browns, Lloyd Alexanders, and Madeleine L’Engles. One day, a thick brown book about rabbits caught my attention. The school librarian tried to dissuade me. At more than 400 pages, Watership Down probably was beyond my second or third grade reading level. But her lack of faith in my abilities, and my contrary nature, spurred me on. I was determined to read this book. While some aspects of the story went over my head, I loved the story of Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, and the rest of the runaway rabbits seeking a better life.

I’ve read Watership Down again and again, maybe ten or twelve times over the course of my life, and each time I take away some new understanding. At first I thought it was just an epic adventure. Later I thought it was a political allegory. On my most recent read, I was dismayed by the book’s gender politics.

I’ve never read another book by Richard Adams, but Watership Down remains a favorite. The most important book of my reading life. The book that cemented in me a love of reading.

Thank you Richard Adams.

Find Watership Down in the library catalog. Or stream the great audiobook at Hoopla.

“It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses.

‘You needn’t worry about them,’ said his companion. ‘They’ll be alright – and thousands like them.'”

A Series of Fortunate Per Diems

You’ve probably heard there’s a new adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events set to hit Netflix on January 13th. The eight episode series starring Neil Patrick Harris as the nefarious Count Olaf was closely watched over by Daniel Handler, Lemony Snicket, himself.

Each time he visited the set, Netflix gave him a per diem to buy a meal. Apparently Handler was on a diet because he saved all those per diems and now he’s using that money to fund a poetry prize. Unpublished poets are invited to submit eight-ish pages of original poetry. The winning work will be printed in the inaugural publication from Per Diem Press along with $1000 and the opportunity to do a public reading with Handler.

Find details about the prize on Daniel Handler’s Facebook page and get your submissions in before February 28th.

To view the new Series of Unfortunate Events show next month, place a hold on one of our Roku Streaming Media Players to use the library Netflix account. While you’re at it, this might be a good time to re-read the books. Get started with The Bad Beginning.

Need Christmas Music Quick?

Having guests over and need some last minute Christmas music? With and your Eisenhower Library card number, you can instantly stream or download music to your computer or mobile device to keep your party merry.

No kidding, there are hundreds of thousands of albums on Hoopla. Surely you’ll find something that will please your friends and family. I’ll recommend some Christmas records to get you started.

Now That’s What I Call Merry Christmas
A great combination of classics and modern updates from the likes of Josh Groban, Nat King Cole Trio, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, David Bowie, and Wham.

A Charlie Brown Christmas
Since it originally aired in 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas and its score by the Vince Guaraldi Trio have become mainstays of the Christmas season.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra: The Christmas Attic
With sold out concerts every year, Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s progressive rock updates of holiday classics have become new standards.

The Muppets’ Red and Green Christmas
Mix up your playlist with some fun Christmas songs by Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppets.

Devil in the White Cinema?

According to the Toronto Sun, legendary director Martin Scorcese is still planning a big screen adaptation of The Devil in the White City starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

When Erik Larsen’s nonficton book detailing the construction of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and the serial killer that stalked the fair was published in 2003, virtually everyone anywhere near the city of Chicago was required to read it. If Scorcese and DiCaprio ever finish the movie version, theaters in the city will be overrun.

I suspect, Daniel Burnham and the other architects that designed the World’s Fair will get short shrift in favor of the more salacious story of H.H. Holmes and his Murder Castle.

If you are one of the few left who hasn’t read The Devil in the White City yet, place a hold on the book in the library catalog or try an eBook.

The Clancys of Queens

If you have you car radio tuned to WBEZ, you’ve probably heard The Moth Radio Hour. Recorded at live events across the country, The Moth has a simple premise. People tell true stories from their lives. Sometimes the stories are funny. Sometimes they’re sad. Often they’re enlightening.

One of the breakout stars of The Moth has been Tara Clancy. With tons of energy and her trademark New York accent, Clancy tells stories of growing up in Queens, living a life split between three homes; with her Irish cop father in a ramshackle, converted boat shed; with her grandparents in an enclave of geriatric Italian Brooklynites; and with her mother’s boyfriend, a millionaire with a luxury apartment in the city and an even ritzier estate in the Hamptons.

Now, Tara Clancy has gathered a bunch of these stories together into a memoir, The Clancys of New York. Starting at about age five and meandering through to her college years, the memoir’s chapter topics range from scheming with her foul-mouthed grandmother, to boxing seven year old boys, to discussing life’s great questions at the edge of an immaculate croquet lawn, to discovering that day-drinking, bar stool regulars can be more than meets the eye, to coming out to her dad in a cuckoo clock-filled, replica Swiss village tourist attraction.

Moving from one anecdote to the next, Clancy reveals her life story with gritty style and over-the-top humor. Thanks to her exaggerated descriptions her memoir reads like a 1990s-set version of A Christmas Story, minus all the Christmas.

The Clancys of Queens is available as a print book, an audiobook, and an eBook.

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.