earth from the moon40 years ago today, while millions watched from their living rooms, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon and suddenly we had a whole new perspective on our world. We’ve come a long way since then – space shuttles and space walks and space stations – but that first step and all of the struggle and work that led up to it continues to fascinate us. The library has all kinds of books  about the Apollo missions including:

Rocket Men: the Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon by Craig Nelson

Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh

Moondust: in Search of the Men Who Feel to Earth by Andrew Smith

Apollo: the Epic Journey to the Moon by David West Reynolds

If you’d prefer to watch your history (and watch actual footage taken at the moon) check out these DVDs:

From the Earth to the Moon – the acclaimed HBO series co-produced by Tom Hanks.

In the Shadow of the Moon: Remember When the Whole World Looked Up – original NASA film footage and interviews with surviving astronauts recall this epic chapter in American history.

The Right Stuff – fictionalized account of the early Apollo missions brings a very human face to the science and technology.

three cups of teaNo, Three Cups of Tea is not a new book — it was published in 2006 – but I just got around to reading it.  Many of you may already be familiar with this book by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin — it’s subtitle is “One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations. ”

Mortenson, barely alive after failing to summit K-2 in 1993, wanders lost and alone  into a remote area of Pakistan, and is cared by the villagers there for seven weeks.  In gratitude, he promises to return to build a school for the children who’ve been learning their lessons by scratching in the dirt.   Raising the funds proves challenging, but after many setbacks, he not only keeps his promise — he eventually builds more than 50 schools throughout rural Pakistan and Afghanistan.

As his mission continues after 9/11, he is met with death threats, a kidnapping, and many cultural challenges in dangerous Taliban territory.  Still, the overall lesson one takes away from this book is that one person really can change the world.

What about the title?  Well, it’s from an old Baltistan proverb.  “The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger.  The second time, you are an honored guest.  The third time, you become family.”  I can’t help but wonder how much better our world would be if we all could share just three cups of tea.

s KeyOn July 16, 1942 thousands of Jewish families were rounded up in Paris and held under brutal conditions at the Vel’ d’Hiv’ train station before being shipped to Auschwitz and almost certain death. Although the orders were issued by the Nazi’s, they were carried out by the French police; most of the Jews were French citizens and almost no one came to their defense. Property and homes left behind by the Jews were quickly taken over by Parisians and the incident buried. While France has recently made an effort to acknowledge and apologize for this dark chapter in their history, and public memorials have been erected, it remains a story that is little known and even deliberately hidden.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana  de Rosnay brings this horrific story to life. Alternating chapters follow 10-year-old Sarah Starzynki and her family when they are brutally taken from their home in 1942 and present-day journalist Julia Jarmond who is writing a story about the little known roundup. The secret that Sarah carries with her – that, at his insistence, she has locked her little brother into a secret hiding place, believing she will return in a few hours – as well as the suffering she and her family endure shadows her life. Julia, an American living in Paris, discovers that her in-laws have a connection to Sarah, a family secret that they have tried to deny. Julia’s determination to find answers and to trace Sarah threaten her marriage and forever alter her view of her beloved adopted home.

This book is a real page turner – both stories are dramatic, full of twists and revealing of human character both at its worst and its best. There are interesting insights into how the people of Occupied France reacted to the persecution of the Jews, and how many modern French continue to dismiss or ignore their past.  At one point someone asks Julia why she, an American born long after the war and with no connection to the tragedy, is so determined to find Sarah. Julia replies that she wants to apologize, “Sorry for not knowing. Sorry for being 45 years old and not knowing.” Reading Sarah’s Key can help all of us correct this error.

I admit it. I am definitely one of those girls who watches the BBC presentation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy over and over and over again. I also watch Bridget Jones’ Diary starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy over and over and over again. In fact, a good majority of my favorite movies  are a version of the Jane Austen’s classic.  Why watch anything else when you can watch Mr. Darcy (especially when that Mr. Darcy is played by Colin Firth)?

BrideAndPrejudiceBride and Prejudice
Bride and Prejudice is Pride and Prejudice gone Bollywood, and it is FANTASTIC. Aishwarya Rai, Bollywood actress and former Miss World, is absolutely stunning as the Elizabeth Bennet character.

Lost in AustenLost in Austen
What girl wouldn’t want to trade places with Elizabeth for some alone time with Mr. Darcy? Yeah, that is what Amanda thought, too, until she started causing chaos in her beloved story when Mr. Bingley falls in love with her and Jane agrees to marry Mr. Collins. Maybe Miss Austen didn’t tell us the whole story…

Becoming JaneBecoming Jane
So Colin Firth will always be my favorite Mr. Darcy, but after seeing James McAvoy as Tom LeFroy, the man who may have inspired the Darcy character, he became my favorite actor. Swoooooon.

Bridget Jones's DiaryBridget Jones’s Diary
FAVORITE! I went through a phase in college where I watched this movie about once a week, now I watch it about once a month. Renée Zellweger is BRILLIANT as Bridget Jones and Colin Firth is DREAMY as Mark Darcy. Laugh laugh tear giggle swoon laugh.

Pride and PrejudicePride and Prejudice (the BBC Version)
By far THE BEST straight-up movie version of Pride and Prejudice. Some may be daunted by the six hour viewing time, but I say the longer the better (I have been known to watch it twice in a row…).

and for those of you who prefer Emma:

Long before he was part of Seth Rogen’s gang, Paul Rudd was the Mr. Knightley to Alicia Silverstone’s Emma of Beverly Hills. Hmmm, this represents a crossover into my other genre fave: teen movies based on classics…

Bastille DayAnd you may be wondering how to commemorate this joyeux July 14th.  As all foodies know, no one takes more delight in their cuisine than the French. Why not check out Joanne Harris’ Chocolat? (in book or dvd format), a fable about the magical quality of chocolate. The film version is a sensual celebration of all forms of chocolate (and Johnny Depp).

A paperback copy of A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle was my constant companion on a trip through the Northeast, and became a scrapbook of sorts (stuffed with pamphlets, snack wrapper bookmarks and smeared with chocolate ice cream eaten in downtown Bar Harbor). Mayle loves his food so much, it’s impossible to feel guilty if you eat while reading his book.  The deep and abiding love of food and drink formed a bond with his Provencal neighbors – though their actions were often perplexing to him.

From Paris to the Moon is a more cerebral collection of essays, about a year in which Adam Gopnik moves from New York to Paris to immerse his family in the French language and way of life. He dissects cafe culture and the “crisis in French cuisine,” among many other things; what could be dry is instead a personal and fascinating insider’s view of an American in Paris.

Notes from a Small IslandTravel writers range from morose (Paul Theroux) to the absurdist. Summer seems more appropriate for the latter, so for the unfortunate few out there who haven’t experienced a Bill Bryson book, please do so now.

There’s absolutely no excuse for those of us who live in Iowa, as Bryson is one of our own. He grew up in Des Moines, traveled in Europe in the ’70’s as a young man, and has alternated living in England and the U.S. ever since.

My all time favorite is Notes from a Small Island, in which Bryson affectionately pokes fun at the English in all their eccentricity. He clearly admires the British character – their humility and forbearance, but can  endlessly mock their customs and  language (place names such as Farleigh Wallop and Shellow Bowells and incomprehensible Scots accents). Those of us who’ve never quite grown up find this hilarious.

The blurb on the British version warns, “Not a book that should be read in public, for fear of emitting loud snorts.”

John Deere ClassicEven though the John Deere Classic is off to a soggy start, there’s still a lot of excitement about following and watching the professionals play golf the way it should be played (and maybe the way you wish you played!) Feeling inspired to improve your game, or pick it up for the first time? Interested in reading more about the stories and legends of golf? The library has lots of books on golf – here are some of the newest:

Walking with Friends: an Inspirational Year on the PGA Tour by DJ Gregory

Ben Hogan’s Magical Device: the Real Secret to Hogan’s Swing Finally Revealed by Ted Hunt

Are You Kidding Me? the Story of Rocco Mediate’s Extraordinary Battle with Tiger Woods at the US Open

Golfing with Your Eyes Closed: Mastering Visualization Techniques for Exceptional Golf by Erin Macy

The Italian Summer: Golf, Food and Family at Lake Como by Roland Merullo

The Leaderboard: Conversations on Golf and Life by Amy Alcott

The Inner Game of Golf by W Timothy Gallwey

Enchanted AprilLong available only on VHS tape, Enchanted April has finally been released on DVD. Fans of beautiful scenery, charming stories and happy endings rejoice!

Two middle class English housewives, feeling downtrodden and forlorn, decide to rent an Italian villa for the month of April. To help with expenses they include two strangers – an elderly woman and a beautiful socialite. Leaving England in the rain, they are somewhat discouraged to find it still raining when they arrive in Italy, but the next morning reveals the countryside in all its beauty.  Soon the sunshine, warmth and quiet solitude work their magic; friendships are forged, marriages healed, memories made.

This is a light – and yes, enchanting – movie filled with humor and heartfelt stories. It is beautifully made (filmed on location in Portofino) and the cast is stellar (Polly Walker, Joan Plowright, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Alfred Molina, Josie Lawrence) This is the perfect ancedote to a hectic or rainy day, or any day that you just want to feel good.

CookingThis is a book about home cooking, but it’s also a book about family and the timeless tradition of passing down knowledge, from elder to child, mother to daughter or, in this case, mother-in-law to son-in-law. Daley has meticulously and lovingly recorded not only his mother-in-laws recipes, tips and advice, but also the the stories behind the recipes – family ancedotes, who passed the recipe on to her, influences from other countries and cultures, and which ones are favorites of guests and family alike. Keeping the project in the family, the beautiful photographs were made by Daley’s wife/Hirami’s daughter Salima.

You’ll find all of your favorites here, covering vegetables, lamb, chicken, rice, chutneys and sweets, all written for the home cook. There is special emphasis on the spices and techniques that make Indian cuisine so unique. While many of the dishes may seem exotic and difficult at first glance, closer inspection shows that even a beginner will soon be cooking authentic, delicious Indian food.

Shelter MeThree months have passed since Janie’s husband was killed in an accident. She is still awash in grief, barely able to function, struggling to get herself and her two small children through each day when a contractor shows up at her house, ready to build the porch her husband had secrectly planned as a surprise for her.

Over the following months Janie finds strength and solace and even laughter from unlikely sources – her annoying, talkative Aunt, the shy, awkward priest, a neighbor she has nothing in common with, even the contractor who becomes a daily, calming presence in their lives. Slowly the pain lessens and Janie learns that moving on does not mean forgetting the past.

Shelter Me by Juliette Fay is a sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny story of how one family puts itself back together after unimaginable tragedy. The writing is compelling – it’s very hard to put this book down – and the characters so real that they will stay with you long after you finish.