By Ayobami Adebayo
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
By Caitlin Doughty
Imagine your eventual death….what feelings run through you? Mortician Caitlin Doughty hopes some level of peace and acceptance accompanies the sadness and the anxiety. As a child, watching another child fall to her death in a Hawaiian shopping mall, Doughty began her path as a death expert and funeral director. Doughty didn’t agree with the commercial death industry for several reasons, including the potential to up-sell to grieving families, its unnecessary procedures (embalming and its environmental impact), and its dynamic of removing corpses from the view of society (which only elevates our death anxiety). Therefore, she decided the best way to educate society was to go from the inside: enroll in mortuary school. Doughty has since been busy working at her non-profit L.A. funeral home, blogging at her website The Order of the Good Death, and creating an “Ask a Mortician” podcast and video series all in the name of making our culture more death positive. This book is fascinating, creepy, humorous, and well-written. Doughty is a great storyteller: irreverent, witty, smart, and has found her calling. Doughty is very descriptive and leaves nothing to the imagination when it comes to dead bodies, decomposition, and funeral home procedures. Educational and engaging, this work is highly recommended! She also has recently written a book called From Here to Eternity which is another page-turner about worldwide death customs.
The Buried Giant
By Kazuo Ishiguro
This work by 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Ishiguro is an immersive, engrossing fantasy about an old couple on a journey to discover the unknown. Taking place around the time of King Arthur, Axl and Beatrice strain to remember their pasts, coping with brief flashes of uncertainty that threaten to upend their progress while traveling to reach the neighboring village of their son. They encounter various characters along the way that assist them in understanding both their own quests and pasts, and the quests and pasts of others.
Throughout the work, Ishiguro writes of the “fog” that encompasses not only the couple, but many others in their village and the surrounding countryside. His writing encapsulates that fog for the reader; we are drawn in by the descriptions and the conflict but are not quite sure how each piece fits into the puzzle until the very end.
Lavishly written and heart-wrenching, this book is not necessarily something that gives the reader a “good feeling” when reading it, but it is definitely a book that is lovely to read and whose themes stay with you long after you have finished. As this is my first Ishiguro novel, and because I have read that Buried Giant is a departure for him, I am looking forward to reading more by this novelist.
–Submitted by Maria Bagshaw, Reference/Instruction Librarian
Between the World and Me
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates writes a series of essays addressed to his son about the state of race relations in America and how this will impact his son’s life. He describes his upbringing and his intellectual development, fostered by deep reading and exposure to new ideas and people at Howard University; he was also changed by becoming a husband and father. He gives historical context to the black experience in the United States, and then gives us his personal experiences and views. This book is an important contribution to the conversation about race in America.
Tree of Smoke
by Denis Johnson
With the onset of PBS’s broadcast of the Ken Burns film series, The Vietnam War, it’s a good time to revisit some of the novels written about the war. Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke is one of the great ones. Winner of the 2007 National Book Award, the novel follows four main characters through their experiences in the war from 1963 to 1970, with a conclusion which takes place in 1983. Two of the characters are brothers of low rank in the military. The other two are high ranking: an uncle and nephew involved in the secret service. Although the book does a good job relaying the wartime atmosphere, especially the constant uncertainty, it does a great job of relaying the sense loss and grief. This book is not for the timid and it took me awhile to get through it, but it is definitely worth the effort. Denis Johnson was awarded the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction this past July. He passed away on May 24, 2017.
–Submitted by Barbara Evans, Reference Librarian
The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips by Judith Boettcher and Rita-Marie Conrad
Although published in 2010, this useful guide is a great option for anyone looking to set up an online course from scratch, or for an instructor implementing an online curriculum.
Boettcher and Conrad provide a general overview of best teaching practices in Part One, including guidance on creating a supportive community, providing a mix of synchronous and asynchronous activities, asking for feedback, and wrapping up in a meaningful way. Part Two divides the course into various phases of the class, including “course beginning”, “early middle”, “late middle” and “closing weeks” so the reader can easily use the tips and tools that most match the phase he/she is teaching. The authors give thought-provoking questions throughout that the teacher can think about as part of the course, or use in the class to spur on critical thinking and creating community.
Having taught online classes, I can say that the advice, tips, scholarship, and focus are all useful from day one and many of the items that I have used within my classroom have worked well and have added value and to the students’ successes.
Each year we do a post on books we have enjoyed and suggest for summer reading.* Here are some old and new favorites! Items available in the ECC Library collection are noted.
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. It is a graphic novel memoir that is both funny and sad about the challenges of taking care of aging parents. I was surprised at how much it made me laugh considering the topic.–Stacey Shah, Distance Learning Librarian. Available at ECC Library
LaRose by Louis Erdrich. A tragedy almost destroys neighboring families but an arrangement based on Ojibwe tribe tradition acts as a catalyses to help them heal and come to a new appreciation of each other. Rich storytelling from a renowned Native American author. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Ficton. –Barb Evans, Reference Librarian. Available at ECC Library
The Girl Before by JP Delaney. In my constant search for reading all books with “girl” in the title, I just finished this fresh thriller. It takes place in a minimalist, state of the art, high tech smart house built by an eccentric architect. The occupants have to agree to some unusual rules to be able to live there. Throughout the history of this fabulous home a few unexplained deaths have happened. The story keeps you guessing until the end! –Kristy Yemm Pemrich, Library Clerk.
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. A fateful summer in his youth colors the rest of Trond’s life in this memoir-like story of life and loss by Norwegian author, Per Petterson. A short but powerful story. –Barb Evans, Reference Librarian. Available at ECC Library
Design for Dying and Dangerous to Know by Renee Patrick. Totally frivolous and an easy read, but a decent option to take to the beach if you like mysteries, strong female characters, and 1930s Hollywood. —Maria Bagshaw, Reference/Instruction Librarian
The Portable Dorothy Parker. Containing poetry, articles, stories, and letters, this collection still resonates as snarky and caustic today. My favorite collection is the poetry missive Enough Rope, which was published in 1926 and is both hopeful of love and yet aware of the pain it inevitably had caused. –Maria Bagshaw, Reference/Instruction Librarian. Available at ECC Library
The Nix by Nathan Hill. This sprawling novel grabbed me from the beginning. Hilarious skewering of higher education, and lots of heart to boot! I loved this book. –Julie Keating, Reference Librarian. Coming soon to ECC Library!
Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes. I was emboldened by Shonda Rhimes’ journey to embrace herself while she tackled motherhood, anxiety, feminism, weight issues, work, and marriage. Sometimes, as women, our hardest challenge is learning to say “yes to no”. –Kristina Howard, Reference/Instruction Librarian