Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler is a modern retelling of the classic Shakespeare play, The Taming of the Shrew. Initially I picked this book to listen to through OverDrive for two reasons: the cover looked interesting and it was available for checkout. I’m glad I checked this out. This was very quick to listen to, the characters are all excellently developed, and the narrator hooked me in.
In this retelling, Kate Battista lives with her father, Dr. Louis Battista, and her younger teenage sister, Bunny. Kate works as a nursery school assistant, takes care of the family house, and has watched her younger sister ever since their mother’s early death. Dr. Battista, a research scientist studying autoimmune disorders, is eccentric to sat the least. His compulsiveness shines through in his work and the way he wants Kate to run the house. Everyone’s laundry is done on a different day of the week, Bunny has to follow her father’s behavior rules 100%, and meal prep is down to a specific science. Kate follows her father’s computer-generated grocery list and makes the family’s “meat mash” at the beginning of the week, a less-than-appetizing-sounding food concoction that contains all necessary nutrients that they then eat for the rest of the week.
Dr. Battista has gone through a number of different lab assistants, the current one, Pyotr Shcherbakov, being his favorite. Pyotr is apparently a star scientist from Russia that Dr. Battista, who is equally famous in Russia, was lucky to get. Unfortunately for everyone, Pyotr’s three-year work visa is about to expire, meaning he will be deported back to Russia unless he marries an American girl. Dr. Battista has the perfect girl in mind for Pyotr: his oldest daughter, Kate, who has never turned down any of his crazy schemes before. This retelling of Shakespeare’s classic veers from the powerful emotions in the original, but is a delightful and positive retelling that leaves readers wondering what will happen between Kate, Pyotr, and her father? Will his research be successful? Will Kate and Pyotr get married? Will the meat mash ever change? Tyler’s quirkiness adds a new level to this classic Shakespeare, something that will have readers clamoring for more.
This book is also available in the following formats:
There are many other clever adaptations of The Taming of the Shrew, some of them you may not realize. Check out this list of my favorite adaptations (and call the library for more suggestions!).
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven handles difficult topics for teens, from emotional problems and mental illness to death and suicide, but in such a way that everything is written eloquently and seriously, showing the consequences of all actions, no matter how big or small. Niven’s characters are beautifully written. The story really captures the heartbreaking yearning for everything to end up alright by showcasing a compelling search for hope when all seems lost.
All the Bright Places is told from the points of view of two high school students, Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. Theodore and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at their school. Finch is fascinated with death, chronicling ways to kill himself. Something good stops him from hurting himself every time. Violet has a countdown until graduation, when she can finally leave Indiana and start a new life away from the aftermath of her older sister’s death.
That first meeting is the start of a very unlikely relationship between the freak, outcast boy, Finch, and the popular, yet damaged girl, Violet. This book weaves an exhilarating and charming, yet simultaneously heartbreaking, love story between the two that immediately draws you in. When Violet and Finch then pair up on a class project to discover the natural wonders of their state, they learn more about each other than they initially thought. Death-fascinated Finch and future-focused Violet find hope and help by working with each other. Their lives will be forever changed.
This book is also available as an audiobook. If you use RiverShare OverDrive, our e-book and audiobook service, you can check out All the Bright Places as an e-book, as well as an audiobook.
Alpha Docs: The Making of a Cardiologist follows Dan Muñoz through his training to become a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. This medical nonfiction highlights Muñoz’s first year of his fellowship at Johns Hopkins, a year where he does a rotation through all of the fields of cardiology: preventive care, nuclear medicine, echocardiography, intensive care, heart failure and transplantation, and electrophysiology. He takes the time to explain the workings of each different cardiology field and tries to decide which area he will end up in after his fellowship is over.
Alpha Docs walks readers through complicated procedures, but in layman’s terms, so that they are easily understandable. Throughout this book, Muñoz talks about how this fellowship is allowing him to search, learn, and discover more about his place in medicine. I really enjoyed his breakdown of each profession and how within each rotation, the cardiologists do very different things, but that there is an overarching goal for all: to keep learning and training and practicing medicine to provide better healthcare for patients. This book really showed the different stages that certain doctors go through while trying to find their niche in the world, while also providing an in-depth look into such a highly sought after fellowship at Johns Hopkins.
Warning: this book is not for the faint of stomach. Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek, M.D., and T.J. Mitchell goes into detail about the many years of training and hundreds of autopsies that Melinek went through to become a forensic pathologist trained in death investigation. Melinek began as a surgical resident, but during her fellowship, she came to the realization that surgery was not for her. As a result, she switched to forensic pathology, a subject she had always enjoyed in medical school, taking a residency position at UCLA. She and her husband bounced between LA and New York where she eventually took on a year long fellowship commitment at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Background out of the way, I found this book to be a fascinating read. It is slightly gory, I’m not going to lie, as Melinek goes into sometimes graphic detail about the autopsies that she has performed and how they helped shape her as a forensic pathologist. The science that she presents throughout the book as well as the reasons for her becoming a forensic pathologist allow readers to see just why she is able to look at even the most decomposed bodies and the bodies of children in order to do her job. As she repeats throughout the book, it is all about the training. Her training added not necessarily a level of detachment to her work, but instead a level of understanding and skill that allowed her to treat every new case as an opportunity to learn something new about the human body.
Melinek was also working at the OCME when the planes struck on September 11th, so reading her input as her office was tasked with identifying the thousands of victims in the initial eight months after the tragedy was jarring, but at the same time, I was awed at the behind-the-scenes look that readers were granted regarding the rescue and recovery effort, as well as the volunteer and first responders’ stories. This book shines a light on all of the hard work and training that goes in to figuring out the mysteries of our deaths.
If the above description interested you or if you are looking for something similar, check out the books below. Click on the covers for more information and to be directed right to our catalog.
Mary Roach has written several medical nonfiction books, as well as Atul Gawande.
On a day-to-day basis, emergency room doctors see a staggering amount of patients. This can become daunting especially when you work the night shift and have a growing family that relies on you during the day. The training and schooling involved in order to become a doctor is somewhat designed to introduce interested candidates to the stressors and rigor of being a doctor, but even armed with that knowledge and experience, the first few shifts and even months until you fall into the swing of things can seem daunting.
Paul Austin, a former firefighter with more than twenty years of experience working in emergencies, has crafted together Something for the Pain: Compassion and Burn-out in the ER. This book, Austin’s memoir, provides an account of what it is really like to struggle through years of medical school, decide your specialty, and then commit to that area. Austin details for readers some of the challenges that emergency room doctors go through on a day-to-day basis. No matter how difficult his day is, he acknowledges that working in a busy emergency room has allowed him to grow and become a better doctor and person.
The endless line of patients and the daily labors of working in an emergency room threatened to tear him apart and destroy his family, but Austin worked hard to find himself again through therapy and looking for moments of clarity, sanity, and compassion throughout the hospital corridors.
It’s August. It’s BACK-TO-SCHOOL time! Perhaps you’ve been busy shopping for new clothes for the kids or trying to cross items off those very specific school supply lists. While you’re out and about, stop by the library and check out some of these titles:
Schools of Fish: Welcome Back to the Reason You Became an Educator by Philip Strand, John Christensen and Andy Halper. This fun, attractively arranged book can help any teacher, new or experienced, approach the school year with enthusiasm.
Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Home Schooling by Brad Miser. Not everyone opts for the traditional school setting. If you’re interested in teaching the kids yourself at home, this book can get you started on the right track.
What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. There is a whole series of these books, known as the Core Knowledge series, covering first through sixth grade. Though written in the 90’s, these books, based upon the cultural literacy concept, have not gone out of style. They make a good, quick review for parents. Who knows, the adults might just learn something new! 372.19 Wha
Freedom Writers. If you prefer watching versus reading, try this inspirational DVD featuring Hilary Swank, based upon a true story of a teacher and her 150 students “who used writing to change themselves and the world around them.”
And don’t forget to check the Davenport Community Schools’ website for information on current events, academic calendars and the latest news about your school.