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Staff Picks

January 2021

Tim H. recommends:

Upload (2020– television series)

From rottentomatoes.com: From Emmy-Award winning writer Greg Daniels (The Office, Parks and Recreation) comes Upload, a new sci-fi comedy series set in a technologically advanced future where hologram phones, 3D food printers and automated grocery stores are the norm. Most uniquely, humans can choose to be "uploaded" into a virtual afterlife when they find themselves near-death. The series follows a young app developer, Nathan Brown (Robbie Amell), who winds up in the hospital following a self-driving car accident, needing to quickly decide his fate. After a rushed deliberation with his shallow girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards), he chooses to be uploaded to her family's luxurious virtual afterlife, the Horizen company's "Lakeview." Once uploaded in Lakeview, Nathan meets his customer service "Angel" Nora Anthony (Andy Allo), who at first is his charismatic concierge and guide, but quickly becomes his friend and confidante, helping him navigate this new digital extension of life.

Comedy

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Leverage (2008-2012 television series)

A drama about a team of high-tech Robin Hoods who scam greedy corporations and corrupt forces that have victimized average citizens. A sly former insurance sleuth captains the crack crew, which includes an eccentric expert thief; a computer virtuoso; a hardfisted "retrieval specialist"; and a grifter with ace thespian skills.

Thriller

 

Keara B. recommends:

Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want To Leave by Joanna Gaines

From amazon.com: In Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave, Joanna Gaines walks you through how to create a home that reflects the personalities and stories of the people who live there. Using examples from her own farmhouse as well as a range of other homes, this comprehensive guide will help you assess your priorities and instincts, as well as your likes and dislikes, with practical steps for navigating and embracing your authentic design style. Room by room, Homebody gives you an in-depth look at how these styles are implemented as well as how to blend the looks you're drawn to in order to create spaces that feel distinctly yours. A removable design template at the back of the book offers a step-by-step guide to planning and sketching out your own design plans. The insight shared in Homebody will instill in you the confidence to thoughtfully create spaces you never want to leave.

Design

 

Stacey J. recommends:

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

David Sedaris plays in the snow with his sisters. He goes on vacation with his family. He gets a job selling drinks. He attends his brother’s wedding. He mops his sister’s floor. He gives directions to a lost traveler. He eats a hamburger. He has his blood sugar tested. It all sounds so normal, doesn’t it? In his newest collection of essays, David Sedaris lifts the corner of ordinary life, revealing the absurdity teeming below its surface. His world is alive with obscure desires and hidden motives — a world where forgiveness is automatic and an argument can be the highest form of love. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim is another unforgettable collection from one of the wittiest and most original writers at work today.

Memoir

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Dark Days (2020 film)

From rottentomatoes.com: Dark Days is a feature length documentary about a community of homeless people living in a train tunnel beneath Manhattan. The film depicts a way of life which is unimaginable to most of those who walk the streets above. In the pitch blackness of the tunnel rats swarm through piles of garbage and high-speed trains out of Penn station tear through the darkness.

Documentary

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The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City by Jennifer Toth

From goodreads.com: Thousands of people live in the subway, railroad, and sewage tunnels that form the bowels of New York City. This book is about them, the so-called "mole people" living alone and in communities, in the frescoed waiting rooms of long-forgotten subway tunnels and in pick-axed compartments below busway platforms. It is about how and why people move underground, who they are, and what they have to say about their lives and the treacherous "topside" world they've left behind. There are even the voices of young children taken down to the tunnels by parents who are determined to keep their families together, although as one tunnel dweller explains, "once you go down there, you can't be a child anymore." Though they maintain an existence hidden from the world aboveground, tunnel dwellers form a large and growing sector of the homeless population. They are a diverse group, and they choose to live underground for many reasonssome rejecting society and its values, others reaffirming those values in what they view as purer terms, and still others seeking shelter from the harsh conditions on the streets. Their enemies include government agencies and homeless organizations as well as wandering crack addicts and marauding gangs. In communities underground, however, many homeless people find not only a place but also an identity.

On these pages Jennifer Toth visits underground New York with various straight-talking guides, from outreach workers and transit police to vetern tunnel dwellers, graffiti artists, and even the "mayor" of a large, highly structured community several levels down. In addition to chilling and poignant firsthand accounts of tunnel life, she describes the fascinating and labryrinthine physical world beneath the city and discusses the literary allusions and historical points of view that prejudice our culture against those who "go underground". 

Nonfiction

 

Stacy C. recommends:

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

From amazon.com: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Dannie Kohan lives her life by the numbers.

She is nothing like her lifelong best friend—the wild, whimsical, believes-in-fate Bella. Her meticulous planning seems to have paid off after she nails the most important job interview of her career and accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal in one fell swoop, falling asleep completely content.

But when she awakens, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. Dannie spends one hour exactly five years in the future before she wakes again in her own home on the brink of midnight—but it is one hour she cannot shake. In Five Years is an unforgettable love story, but it is not the one you’re expecting.

Fiction

 

Sara C. recommends:

My Octopus Teacher (2020 film)

From imdb.com: A filmmaker forges an unusual friendship with an octopus living in a South African kelp forest, learning as the animal shares the mysteries of her world.

Documentary

 

Brigitte H. recommends:

Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen

From goodreads.com: The Van Ripper women have been the talk of Tarrytown, New York, for centuries. Some say they’re angels; some say they’re crooks. In their tumbledown “Stitchery,” not far from the stomping grounds of the legendary Headless Horseman, the Van Ripper sisters—Aubrey, Bitty, and Meggie—are said to knit people’s most ardent wishes into beautiful scarves and mittens, granting them health, success, or even a blossoming romance. But for the magic to work, sacrifices must be made—and no one knows that better than the Van Rippers.

When the Stitchery matriarch, Mariah, dies, she leaves the yarn shop to her three nieces. Aubrey, shy and reliable, has dedicated her life to weaving spells for the community, though her sisters have long stayed away. Bitty, pragmatic and persistent, has always been skeptical of magic and wants her children to have a normal, nonmagical life. Meggie, restless and free-spirited, follows her own set of rules. Now, after Mariah’s death forces a reunion, the sisters must reassess the state of their lives even as they decide the fate of the Stitchery. But their relationships with one another—and their beliefs in magic—are put to the test. Will the threads hold?

Fiction

 

Sandra K. recommends:

The Look of the Book by Peter Mendelsund

I’ve been in love with Peter Mendelsund’s book covers for years now, collecting certain series simply because he illustrated the covers. If you browse libraries and bookstores often, you will recognize his work, from the Millennium series by Steig Larsson to my personal favorite, the works of Kafka with their unblinking eyes. This work, while occasionally examining his art, instead focuses on some of the history of book covers, and is simply one of the most beautiful art books I’ve come across.

From amazon.com: As the outward face of the text, the book cover makes an all-important first impression. The Look of the Book examines art at the edges of literature through notable covers and the stories behind them, galleries of the many different jackets of bestselling books, an overview of book cover trends throughout history, and insights from dozens of literary and design luminaries. Co-authored by celebrated designer and creative director Peter Mendelsund and scholar David Alworth, this fascinating collaboration, featuring hundreds of covers, challenges our notions of what a book cover can and should be.

Art

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The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett

From amazon.com: With themes reminiscent of Shirley Jackson, Thomas Ligotti, and Bruno Schulz, but with a strikingly unique vision, Jon Padgett's The Secret of Ventriloquism heralds the arrival of a significant new literary talent.

Padgett’s work explores the mystery of human suffering, the agony of personal existence, and the ghastly means by which someone might achieve salvation from both. A bullied child who seeks vengeance within a bed’s hollow box spring; a lucid dreamer haunted by an impossible house; a dummy that reveals its own anatomy in 20 simple steps; a stuttering librarian who holds the key to a mill town's unspeakable secrets; a commuter whose worldview is shattered by two words printed on a cardboard sign; an aspiring ventriloquist who spends a little too much time looking at himself in a mirror. And the presence that speaks through them all.

Horror