And a very happy Friday to you, dear readers!
As you’ll see from today’s Google Doodle, today is the 44th ‘birthday’ of Hip-Hop, a subculture and art movement developed by African-Americans and Puerto Ricans from the South Bronx in New York City.
On August 11, 1973 DJ Kool Herc was the DJ at his sister’s back-to-school party. He extended the beat of a record by using two record players, isolating the percussion “breaks” by using a mixer to switch between the two records. Herc’s experiments with making music with record players became what we now know as breaking or “scratching“. His house parties soon gained wider popularity, moving to outdoor venues where more and more guests could hear his unique brand of music–and begin to create their own, establishing culture around hip-hop that not only provided a lot of young people an outlet for their energy and expression, but also gave a number of minority artists a voice to speak on social issues.
And speaking of books…here are just a few of the many new titles that sashayed up onto our shelves this week, and are eager to be part of your summer adventures!
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old: Any fans of A Man Called Ove should seek this book out immediately. It’s another book that celebrates longevity, irresistibel humor, and the insight of the…vintage members of our community. Hendrik Groen may be old, but he is far from dead and isn’t planning to be buried any time soon. Granted, his daily strolls are getting shorter because his legs are no longer willing and he has to visit his doctor more than he’d like. Technically speaking he is…elderly. But surely there is more to life at his age than weak tea and potted geraniums? So sets out to write a shocking tell-all book about life in his Amsterdam nursing home, including his comrades in the the anarchic Old-But-Not-Dead Club. And when Eefje, Hendrik’s longtime, far-off love, moves in, he sets out to win her once and for all, with heartbreaking and hilarious consequences. Though there may be some cultural differences between our world and Hendrik’s, as Publisher’s Weekly points out in its review, some things are universal. As they put it: “Hendrik’s diary gives a dignity and respect to the elderly often overlooked in popular culture, providing readers a look into the importance of friendship and the realities of the senior care system in modern society.”
The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek: Howard Markel is a medical historian, and since the Kellogg’s started out as homeopathic ‘health reformers’, he is in the perfect position to shed new light on these complex, dynamic…and surprisingly eccentric brothers. The Kelloggs were of Puritan stock, but turned their back on their considerably large and wealthy) family in order to follow one Ellen Harmon White, a self-proclaimed prophetess, and James White, whose new Seventh-day Adventist theology was based on Christian principles and sound body, mind, and hygiene rules. The Whites groomed the young John Kellogg for medical school, and together, he and his brother set out to cure the American malady of indigestion, experimenting with wheat, corn, malt, and eventually developing an easy-to-digest product known as “corn flakes” for their patients and consumers. John Kellogg also opened world-famous Battle Creek Sanitarium medical center, spa, and grand hotel attracted thousands actively pursuing health and well-being. This book is a fast-paced, well-researched, and highly entertaining trip through a cast of 19th century celebrities, industrialists, policy-makers, and the men who treated their guts. Kirkus called it “Delightful . . . Markel refreshingly resists the temptation—not resisted by films and novels—to deliver caricatures . . . A superb warts-and-all account of two men whose lives help illuminate the rise of health promotion and the modern food industry.”
Drinks With Dead Poets: Glyn Maxwell is a both an acclaimed poet and a teacher, and this novel allows him to bring all his formidable talents to bear in a fascinating and joyful literary fantasy. Poet Glyn Maxwell wakes up in a mysterious village one autumn day. He has no idea how he got there―is he dead? In a coma? Dreaming?―but he has a strange feeling there’s a class to teach. And isn’t that the poet Keats wandering down the lane? Why not ask him to give a reading, do a Q and A, hit the pub with the students afterwards? Soon the whole of the autumn term stretches ahead, with Byron, Yeats and Emily Dickinson, the Brontës, the Brownings, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Wilfred Owen, and many more all on their way to give readings in the humble village hall. Though poetry and Brit-lit lovers are sure to devour this novel, there is plenty in here for those who haven’t discovered–or enjoyed–these authors previously. It’s a big, beautiful, exuberant book about life, literature, love, and the wonder of teaching that earned a starred review from Booklist, who said “This novel packs so much truth and so many conspicuously educational moments―along with character studies of 12 major nineteenth-century poets and writers―that it defies classification. An intoxicating blend of fiction, memoir, and literary criticism.”
Drunks: An American History: Though the title of Christopher M. Finan’s work sounds flippant, his subject matter–the cultural history of alcoholism and sobriety in the United States–is really quite a serious, and a seriously overlooked, one. From Native Americans whose interactions with European settlers led to a new and problematic relationship with alcohol to John Adams, who renounced his son Charles for his inebriation, to Carry Nation, who destroyed bars with a hatchet out of fury for what alcohol had done to her family, to Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, who helped each other stay sober and created Alcoholics Anonymous together, this book reframes the American experience as one constantly searching for liberation from vices of its own making. Well-researched and well-told, this is a book that sheds light on a number of unsing heroes and nearly-forgotten struggles that deserve to be told. Publisher’s Weekly agrees, calling it “An appropriately harrowing account of booze and its discontents…A worthy treatment of recovery movements in American history, unsung heroes and all.”
Dead on Arrival: If you can stomach any more doomsday-type narratives, Matt Richtel’s newest release is turning a number of heads, and drawing comparisons with Michael Crichton and Stephen King to boot. The story focuses on Flight 194, which lands in a desolate Colorado airport–and finds that everyone who wasn’t on board appears to be dead. While they were in the air, a lethal new kind of virus surfaced, threatening mankind’s survival, and now Dr. Lyle Martin, a passenger on Flight 194, and once one of the most sought-after virologists on the planet—is at the center of the investigation. This is a techno-thriller that not only dazzles with fancy-schmancy locales and high-end gadgets, but also takes into account our own dependence on digital wizardry…and turns it against us in some pretty interesting ways. It’s earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who enthused, “Richtel grabs his audience by the throat from the start of this intelligent nail-biter.”