Preserving Yesterday, Enriching Today, Inspiring Tomorrow

LiterariLeigh, Leigh Looks at Books

LiterariLeigh, Leigh Looks at Books

An Excellent Adventure

Happy post Fourth of July! How did you celebrate Independence Day? Fireworks? Barbecue? Maybe a road trip?

Driving along the road with the windows down can be quite a liberating experience. That’s how former President Harry Truman felt when he and his wife Bess packed their bags and headed out of Missouri. Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip by Matthew Alegro traces their journey to Washington, D.C., up to New York City, and back home again. Though often recognized and detoured by autograph seekers, the Trumans traveled without secret service or guards of any kind, stopping in “mom and pop” restaurants and staying at motels or with friends, often taking the scenic route. And the author adds his own personality by driving that same journey and seeing the same spots as much as possible, noting both similarities and changes.

Much of the charm of this book is not only the recounting of the Truman’s trip, but also stories of classic Americana, the development of the U.S. highway system and chain motels, insight into Truman’s political career and post-presidential finances (or lack thereof), and the creation of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. Most excellent!


The Freedom of A Girl, and A Nation

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the date 1776? The Revolutionary War? The signing of the Declaration of Independence? George Washington and his troops fighting for freedom? Acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson writes about all of these things – from the perspective of a 13 year old slave.

Chains is the first book in The Seeds of America trilogy. Living in Rhode Island, Isabel and her young sister Ruth were freed from slavery upon the death of their owner, but no one is interested in finding the lawyer who drew up the papers. Sold to a wealthy couple, they are taken to New York City where Isabel is put to work as a house servant and the cruel mistress treats Ruth as a doll to dress up and display. Hoping to gain freedom Isabel secretly passes information to the rebels, but when an officer has the opportunity to help her escape, he instead turns her over for punishment. Although subdued by the brutality at first, she decides to use her anger, focusing on a plan to get her and her sister to a safe place where they can be free.

Slavery is so often associated with the Civil War and the South that I found it very interesting to read about what was going on almost a hundred years earlier in the North. Isabel’s story tells about what was happening to those without rights, and the Revolutionary War is a perfect setting, with the even larger drama of fighting to attain the freedom of an entire nation from the British. Chains is cataloged in our young adult section, but I would have no hesitation recommending it to adults looking for excellent historical […]

By |March 7th, 2014|Categories: LiterariLeigh, Leigh Looks at Books||Comments Off

Best of 2013 from LiterariLeigh

Gosh, I got to read quite a few good books this year. It’s hard to choose favorites, but I’m going to :)
Favorite Fiction – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Favorite Non-Fiction – Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard

Favorite YA Novel: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Worst book that I kept reading because it was so terrible I just couldn’t look away: Vampire Shrink (Kismet Knight, Ph.D., Vampire Psychologist #1) by Lynda Hilburn. Seriously, I ran across the title in the library catalog and felt compelled to read it. Why oh why. But it was excellent fodder for lunch room conversation.

Happy New Year!!!

By |December 31st, 2013|Categories: LiterariLeigh, Leigh Looks at Books|Tags: |Comments Off

Lean In






Sheryl Sandberg is one year older than I am. She graduated from Harvard Business School; I graduated from Kent State. She is the chief operating officer of Facebook; I am a librarian. We are both women who want to have successful, productive careers.

Since I work at the library, I rarely ask for books as gifts. But this year I have requested a copy of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. As I was reading the book I was using post-its to mark passages I related to or found inspiring and wanted to go back and read again. When I finished, I noticed there were an awful lot of colorful little flags sticking out of the pages. That’s when I realized I should probably have my own copy for reference.

Sandberg’s writing is both personable and encouraging. She has a fantastic education and a wealth of accomplishments behind her, has worked hard and learned that “having it all” is not all it’s cracked up to be. How often have we heard the phrase “It’s not personal. It’s business.”? For many people, the workplace is not only a place to collect a paycheck, but coworkers become friends. Our problems don’t leave themselves at home (have you cried at work? She has. And so have I.) Decisions have to be made and they can be tough decisions. And since many women are not comfortable with disagreement and confrontation, learning how to trust your own judgement, delegate responsibility, and let go of worrying about decisions once they are made can be the toughest part of the job. Sheryl challenges us to step up and gives some great pointers about how to do it.
Sheryl Sandberg: Why we […]

By |December 20th, 2013|Categories: LiterariLeigh, Leigh Looks at Books||Comments Off

Best Books of 2013

It’s the time of the year when the “Best Books of 2013″ lists are coming out. There are top picks for a variety of genres as well as non-fiction, but three books pop up again and again. Khaled Hosseini, noted author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, triumphs again with his generational and global novel about how people act and react to each other in And the Mountains Echoed. Altering time, history and life itself, Kate Atkinson reflects on the choices we make with Life after Life. And The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt relates the story of Theo, a boy who loses his mother in a tragedy, and his difficult passage from teen to adult. For more about these titles and plenty of other recommended books, check out the following sites:

Goodreads Choice Awards 2013
Amazon’s Top 100 Editor’s Picks 
The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2013 
The Huffington Post Best Books of 2013
Barnes and Noble Best New Books of 2013  




By |December 6th, 2013|Categories: LiterariLeigh, Leigh Looks at Books|Tags: |Comments Off

Grumpy Cat


I like Grumpy Cat. What kind of cat is she? We’re not sure. She does not want to snuggle. Or be friends with the oafish dog. Or have a nice day. The only thing that does not seem to add to her grumpiness is her friend Cactus (who has googly-eyes). Perhaps you will appease her by reading Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book. But most likely not. Just remember to look grumpy, and you will feel grumpy.


By |November 15th, 2013|Categories: LiterariLeigh, Leigh Looks at Books|Tags: |Comments Off

The Great Gatsby

Reading The Great Gatsby as a high school senior:
1. Must read 60 pages by tomorrow
2. Must write 10 page paper on the meaning of the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock
3. Must be able to discuss Gatsby’s love for Daisy
4. Must find at least 3 fundamental themes for final test

Reading The Great Gatsby this year with my book group:
1. Priceless

Honestly, I was so pleased with how much more I got out of re-reading Gatsby as an adult. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most notable work is told from the viewpoint of imported midwesterner Nick Carraway, who rents the house next door to the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby. Nick’s cousin Daisy and her husband Tom live across the Long Island bay in luxurious wealth, and Tom drives Nick through the “valley of ashes” wasteland, picking up his mistress before heading into New York City. Legendary parties are a regular occurrence at Gatsby’s mansion and Nick, upon receiving an invitation, attends and meets Jay. It turns out Gatsby is in love with Daisy and he coerces Nick to host a meeting between them. And from there the story turns to love, obsession, confusion, dishonesty and betrayal.

Because I didn’t have to think about writing papers and topic points and such, I was really able to love Fitzgerald’s words and images. While I can’t say I approved of what Gatsby was trying to do, I finally understood, and appreciated the flaws and merits of his character. And the final words of the book – “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”- gave cause for reflective thought about what I had just read. Now I understand why it’s a classic.

By |November 8th, 2013|Categories: LiterariLeigh, Leigh Looks at Books|Tags: |Comments Off


           Salt: You are frightened of the night?
           Randy: Baloney!
           Salt: You are frightened of baloney?
                     ~from the 1982 movie Pandemonium

Tonight I’m going to check out the series premiere of Dracula (NBC at 10pm) because I like vampire stories, and set in Victorian England, this show harkens back to classic Bram Stoker. There are loads of retellings and reimaginings – Interview With the Vampire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood, Twilight, etc. – but only one that features a potential vampire rabbit.

He was found by the Monroe family at a screening of the movie Dracula. Sleeps from sunup to sundown. Appears to have fangs. And since he arrived, vegetables are being found drained of their juices until they turn white! According to the family cat Chester there can only be one answer – Bunnicula must be a vampire! Unable to effectively communicate the potential danger to his family, Chester tries to convince Harold (our canine narrator) that the bunny has to be stopped before vegetables are no longer enough to satisfy his drinking desires.

While the book is kept in the children’s section, I think it’s a great, fun read for any age. Deborah and James Howe wrote several other books in the Bunnicula series, including one of my all time favorite titles for a book – The Celery Stalks at Midnight. Oh, and an important tip – when trying to destroy a vampiric creature, don’t use a steak of beef. You’ll just look silly.

By |October 25th, 2013|Categories: LiterariLeigh, Leigh Looks at Books|Tags: |Comments Off

Helter Skelter

Is real life stranger than fiction? Oftentimes I believe this to be true. What I am certain of is that real life crime is scarier than anything horror writers have come up with. Oh I’ve been terrified by Stephen King, wouldn’t swim even in lakes after seeing Jaws, and do not want to be possessed or be around people who are possessed by demons thanks to The Exorcist. But true crime both fascinates me and freaks me out – this really happened?

Well, if you’re looking to scare yourself silly I’d go with Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi  (the prosecuting attorney in the case), with Curt Gentry. The name Charles Manson is well associated with words like cult leader, delusional, racist, and murderer. Living in California in the 60’s, Charlie wanted to be a singer and musician and was a fan of “free love” so long as it worked in his favor. After gathering followers, he convinced them all to live at the broken down Spahn Movie Ranch north of Los Angeles. Although very scary, apparently Manson was also quite charismatic and took advantage of these lost, stoned flower children, brainwashing them to believe in Helter Skelter – a crazy theory of racial apocalypse where by they would hide in a secret city under Death Valley, arising after the war to control the world as white supremacists. And he claimed that this idea was inspired by his interpretation of the song Helter Skelter by The Beatles.

Manson also manipulated several of his followers to murder, the most famous and horrifying being the gruesome killing of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others at the home of director Roman Polanski […]

By |October 21st, 2013|Categories: LiterariLeigh, Leigh Looks at Books|Tags: |Comments Off

Shutter Island

    shutter (noun)

1. a solid or louvered movable cover for a window.
2. a movable cover, slide, etc., for an opening.
3. a person or thing that shuts
4. Photography – a mechanical device for opening and closing the aperture of a camera lens to expose film or the like.

    verb (used with object)
5. to close or provide with shutters: She shuttered the windows. close (a store or business operations) for the day or permanently.

Shutter Islandby Dennis Lehane is a very creepy psychological mystery thriller. In 1954 U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels and his partner Chuck Aule take a ferry boat to a maximum security insane asylum. A patient has somehow escaped and left no clues. They interview the tight lipped staff and director who are obviously hiding something. When a storm hits the island, the partners are separated and Daniels makes what he thinks is an important discovery about the hospital experimenting on prisoners by giving them psychotropic drugs, and in some cases lobotomies. I say he “thinks” this is significant information because it only begins to explain what’s happening. If you like twists and turns, mind-bending, kind of freaky noir fiction, Shutter Island is for you. And be sure to think about the definitions above while reading – they are all applicable. 

By |October 11th, 2013|Categories: LiterariLeigh, Leigh Looks at Books, Uncategorized|Tags: |Comments Off