It’s Cyber Monday. Time to Add These Books to Your Gift-Giving List!

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Andy Williams once crooned that these next few weeks are “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” but for many of us, holiday shopping is about as much fun as having a root canal. We thought we’d take the load off your holiday gift-giving angst and present you with Publishers Weekly’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide  that is sure to please everyone on your list: from your kid sister to your Aunt Matilda to your very own secret crush. Happy shopping!

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Teen Read Week 2016 Video Recap

The week leading up to Halloween and the holiday itself were a fun time in the LFHS Library as we celebrated Teen Read Week. Sponsored by the American Library Association and the Young Adult Library Services Association, this year’s theme was “Read for the Fun of It.” Not only did we read, but we created, explored, competed, relaxed, and ate the whole week long. Check out our video recap!

Read This Book: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

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After reading some of the reviews on Goodreads, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. But I’m glad I did. I loved Diaz’s eloquent language, his authentic street voice and his engrossing storytelling. His style of writing (interspersing Spanish dialogue and phrases, along with footnotes relating to the historical events taking place throughout the story) is not for everyone, but I found it engaging. I’m sure that knowledge of Spanish would have added another dimension to the story, but NOT knowing Spanish didn’t make the narrative less enjoyable. I was able to infer what he was trying to impart from the context, and the footnotes provided valuable historical references (although sometimes it was a bit TOO much information). This technique really pulled me in and gave me more information to better understand the thoughts, actions and motivations of the characters.   

Diaz also uses an interesting POV, telling the story NOT through Oscar’s voice, but through the voice of Yunior, his sister Lola’s ex-boyfriend. I found it a bit confusing at first, but once I got past that, the story began to fit together.

The plot revolves around Oscar, an introverted, overweight video gamer and anime freak who spends his life holed up in his room trying to write the next fantasy/sci-fi best-seller (in his own attempt to become the next Dominican Tolkien). He fills notebooks with stories that will never see the light of day, and despite his solitary existence and his total inability to connect with others, he longs to find his true love. As the narrator, Yunior takes you back and forth between the Dominican Republic and New Jersey, introducing you to Oscar’s extended family, many of whom came of age during the violent regime of dictator Rafael Trujillo.

What’s so wondrous, you ask, about a life led by an odd, awkward fellow like Oscar? It’s that he manages to evade the Dominican curse–the fuku (the Curse and Doom of the New World) for as long as he does. It’s the curse that has been passed down through Oscar’s family, especially those who were victimized under Trujillo’s regime. And, as hard as Oscar tries to make his dreams come true, the power of the curse is so strong that, in the end, he just can’t beat it.

As a side note: I’m a long-time NJ resident and the parent of a Rutgers grad; I found myself absorbed in many of the descriptions of local scenes. Diaz transported this Jersey girl back ‘home’ through his rich depictions of life in New Brunswick and Paterson.  

I’m so glad that I gave this book a chance. Diaz is a brilliant writer and his book is definitely one of my favorite reads of this year.

Reviewed by Denise Mortensen, LFHS Library/Media Assistant

Faculty Favorite: Mr. Kuhl

img_2497Need a good read for post-election reflection? Consider Mr. Kuhl’s faculty favorite: Our Lincoln, by Eric Foner (editor). “Lincoln has many facets and often becomes a canvas that we project out views upon,” says Kuhl. The book is fascinating as it is a compilation of essays that examine Lincoln’s views through today’s social and political filters. According to Goodreads.com, “The Lincoln who emerges is a man of his time, yet able to transcend and transform it—a reasonable measure of greatness.”

screenshot-2016-10-05-at-12-55-07-pmSynopsis:

In 1876 the abolitionist Frederick Douglass observed, “No man can say anything that is new of Abraham Lincoln.” Undeterred, the contributors to Our Lincoln believe it is possible even now, especially if the starting point is the interaction between the life and the times. Several of these original essays focus on Lincoln’s leadership as president and commander in chief. James M. McPherson examines Lincoln’s deft navigation of the crosscurrents of politics and wartime strategy. Sean Wilentz assesses Lincoln’s evolving position in the context of party politics. On slavery and race, Eric Foner writes of Lincoln and the movement to colonize emancipated slaves outside the United States. James Oakes considers Lincoln’s views on race and citizenship. There are also brilliant essays on Lincoln’s literary style, religious beliefs, and family life.

Synopsis from Goodreads.com

Does My Head Look Big In This?

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Does My Head Look Big In This?

When sixteen-year-old Amal decides to wear the hijab full-time, her entire world changes, all because of a piece of cloth…

Sixteen-year-old Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab full- time and everyone has a reaction. Her parents, her teachers, her friends, people on the street. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it does make her a little different from everyone else.

Can she handle the taunts of “towel head,” the prejudice of her classmates, and still attract the cutest boy in school? Brilliantly funny and poignant, Randa Abdel-Fattah’s debut novel will strike a chord in all teenage readers, no matter what their beliefs.

(Taken from Goodreads)
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This was a fun-to-read teen novel about school, family, friends, fitting in, and romance issues with the added cultural background of how it is to grow up Muslim. I learned more about about the faith and what one teen’s experience was when she choose to wear a hijab. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about a different faith or perhaps about their own culture and how to stand out versus fit in.
Dr. Hirose, LFHS Library

Faculty Favorite: Mr.Scott

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What’s Mr. Scott’s favorite read? The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien. “The authentic nature of his characters and scenery make for a visceral tour de force of the Vietnam War,” says Mr. Scott. “No book I have read since tugs at the heartstrings with such thoughtful, emotion-filled stories and characters. Anyone who starts The Things They Carried and abandons it abandons their own delicate vulnerability as a human.”

Have you read The Things They Carried? Let us know your thoughts! And thank you, Mr. Scott, for your insights!

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They carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28-pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated bibles, each other. And if they made it home alive, they carried unrelenting images of a nightmarish war that history is only beginning to absorb. Since its first publication, The Things They Carried has become an unparalleled Vietnam testament, a classic work of American literature, and a profound study of men at war that illuminates the capacity, and the limits, of the human heart and soul.

The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O’Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three.

Synopsis from Goodreads.com

Faculty Favorites: Mr. Wahlgren

This week’s Faculty Favorite, The Ghost Dance: The Origins of Religion, by Weston Le Barre, is from Mr. Wahlgren.  screenshot-2016-10-05-at-12-50-45-pmLe Barre is a well-known anthropologist and ethnographer whose fieldwork across the globe provided the basis for his theories about the origins of religion. Mr. Wahlgren particularly enjoyed this book because it included the “Search for the origins of religion, employing psychology and anthropology to explain elements of Greek, Egyptian, Jewish, Christian, shamanic and Native American religion.” Want to find out more? Read the synopsis below:

The Ghost Dance: The Origins of Religion by Weston La Barre (1915-1996) is a classic search for the origins of religion, employing psychology and anthropology to explain elements of Greek, Egyptian, Jewish, Christian, shamanic and Native American religion.

The Ghost Dance offers a fascinating exploration of the history and origins of religious belief from earliest times to the present day. The Ghost Dance takes its place beside other great studies of religion, such as those by Sigmund Freud, Geza Roheim or Mircea Eliade. It draws together his explorations of shamanism, world religion, Native American culture, altered states of consciousness and the use of drugs in belief systems.

Synopsis from Goodreads.com