Monday, November 25, 2013

November 2013 Book Recommendations by Staff

November 25, 2013
Masterpieces of American Modernism: from the Vilcek Collection
By William C. Agee and Lewis Kachur, with contributions from Rick Kinsel and Emily Schuchardt Navratil

Masterpieces of American Modernism: from the Vilcek Collection is an important introduction to the stunning personal collection of Jan and Marica Vilcek, Czechoslovakian immigrants, and to the chronology of Modernism as a movement in American art history. Rick Kinsel, Executive Director of the Vilcek Foundation, provides an important introduction to the Vilceks, their immigration experience, and a history of how they started collecting works of American art. William Agee’s written contribution is an intellectually interesting analysis of the many paintings, painters, and the Modernist movement itself which he hopes will “…defuse the ‘Big Bang’ theory of American art: that it was born only after 1945, with no earlier history.”

Major artists are well represented in this book – Marsden Hartley, Max Weber, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Arthur Dove. The book contains an informative multi-page print and photographic timeline, which greatly helps put in perspective the context of the movement, as well as a complete section of artist biographies and photographs by Emily Schuchardt Navratil. The book is also well indexed. Many other artists important to the Modernist movement are included in the book, which contains beautiful color reproductions of the artworks and is very sturdily bound. This book is essential to understanding the holistic aspects of the Modernist movement in this country. The written contributions are educational and challenging and the book itself provides a key connection between the history of American art and the Modernist movement in American art.

One of the nicest things about this book is setting aside time to browse through all the fantastic art and, at your own pace, absorbing all the wonders it has to offer.


November 18, 2013

Blackhorse Riders: A Desperate Last Stand, an Extraordinary Rescue Mission, and the Vietnam Battle America Forgot
By Phil Keith

Phil Keith's Blackhorse Riders is a powerful account of bravery and courage in one of the most controversial years of the Vietnam War. It is an account of soldiers from the Blackhorse Regiment rescuing an entrapped infantry unit in a harrowing fight centered around March 26, 1970. The story of this "rescue" is the story of very ordinary Americans rising to levels of extraordinary heroism, bravery, and self sacrifice.

As a Vietnam combat veteran, I can attest to the detailed level of Keith's writing. The descriptions of the jungle, fighting, night marching, exhaustion, fear, anger, physical pain, and hope are all very real. It is a story that is truly worth telling to the point that Captain John Poindexter, the leader of the rescue and Alpha Troop, spent decades fighting for recognition of his men. On October 30, 2009, President Obama awarded Alpha Troop with a Presidential Unit Citation, the highest combat award that can be bestowed on a military unit.

A strong point to Mr. Keith’s narrative is the attention given to this ceremony and to the details given about the participating soldiers lives since the battle. These individual stories complete a cycle begun in 1970 and add a rich human dimension to the story. Additionally, the book contains an eloquent forward by General George Casey Jr., an epilogue, acknowledgments, appendices, a glossary, and a detailed index. Mr. Keith, himself a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, has provided a gripping account of his fellow brothers-in-arms bravery, heroism, and dedication in a very tough situation in an unpopular war.

For those who fought there the story resonates with validity; for those who did not the story will bring you there.


November 12, 2013

Kvothe: Arcanist, hero, murderer, villain. The rumors about him are many and varied. In The Name of the Wind, the man himself puts the story straight.

The Name of the Wind
By Patrick Rothfuss

Having recently staggered away from George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series and feeling lost with the next book’s publication date only a hazy shape on the horizon, I found myself yearning for more epic fantasy. Being the savvy information professional that I am, I quickly took to Google with the sophisticated search string “what to read after Dance with Dragons.” It wasn’t luck that brought me to Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles; it was pure skill. A helpful IO9 article featuring a list of read-alikes for Martin’s series is where I first heard about The Name of the Wind and Kvothe (pronounced like “quothe”).

Rothfuss’s novel is about power. Kvothe spends much of the early chapters in poverty, barely surviving on the streets of a strange city. He harbors within him a flame of rage and a desire for revenge against those who destroyed his community. Kvothe uses whatever means necessary to escape destitution and enter the University, a center of learning where men and women acquire arcane knowledge including sympathy, a form of magic. One of the youngest students ever admitted, Kvothe quickly rises through the ranks, making enemies on his way.

Using a confessionary form, the plot is unraveled as the protagonist recounts his life story to a scribe. This creates an intimacy between the reader and Kvothe and also keeps us hungering for revelations. The reader knows from the beginning that Kvothe has become a legendary and feared figure. Some cataclysmic event has changed the world and cast Kvothe into a dark role. Unfortunately, the first book in the series does not tell the whole story. To find out how Kvothe fell from grace and eventually left the University we must continue on to the sequel.

Highly recommended for fantasy lovers.


November 4, 2013

Attention mystery readers: new noir fiction by Worcester native

No Regrets, Coyote
By John Dufresne

If you are a lover of detective fiction, give No Regrets, Coyote by Worcester native John Dufresne a try. It contains everything you could desire in a modern mystery novel: suspense, intrigue, gory details, cleverness, and humor. Or, mix the curiosity and intellect of Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware, the wit and heart of Robert Parker’s Spenser, and Carl Hiassen’s South Florida setting, and then add Dufresne’s signature compassion and a bit of wordplay, and you’ve got a new book on your Must Read list.

The crime: an entire family is shot to death by the father, or so it would seem. Enter Wylie “Coyote” Melville, psychotherapist and forensic consultant to the local police, who isn’t buying the crime scene at face value. The reader also gets to meet Coyote’s family and friends, whose eccentricities could fill a chapter of the DSM-5. A fun read that will keep the pages turning effortlessly.

And if you've never read Dufresne's novels, check out Requiem, Mass. (Worcesterites will recognize the neighborhood) or Love Warps the Mind a Little. You won’t be disappointed!


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