Category: Blog Posts

Get Kits for Your Book Clubs!

It’s 2019 and we’re well past the first-month mark. How are your New Year’s resolutions coming along? Did you decide to get involved in a book club?

“I would,” you may reply, “but I don’t like book club books. They’re just too … book clubby.”

I hear you. While I enjoy books that make it into reader circles for discussion — and, let’s face it, many are adapted into movies and TV shows, like these and these — even I would be disheartened if I had to read and discuss those types of books every month. Sometimes, I like to explore books that not everyone else is reading.

With that in mind, Douglas County Libraries has begun to diversify our Book Club Express collection. You may have noticed a title or two that are just a little different from what you expected. After dipping our toes into the water and finding it not painful, we’re going full-out this year. For each “traditional” Book Club Express title, we aim to also add something unexpected, a goal you may remember from my last post on the same topic.

Here’s a preview of some of the Book Club Express items hitting the shelves this quarter.


by John Lewis

It’s a memoir in graphic novel format. Yes, it’s technically aimed at teens, but this series has scored well among adults, from boomers who watched or participated in the civil rights movement to millennial activists who are researching prominent American protest movements.

If you’ve never read a graphic novel, don’t be put off. This story comes in a set of three books in one slipcase. The first book is slim, allowing you to find your footing while learning to read the words and the illustrations simultaneously. Warning: The print in Book One is really small, which could prove to be frustrating. However, the second and third books are lettered better and you’ll have your pacing down by then, so the overall experience should be more enjoyable. Give it a shot — it’s a phenomenal recollection of historical events that are still relevant in today’s political environment.

Farming: A Hand Book

by Wendell Berry

Coming soon! This older book of poetry was written by environmental conservationist/English professor-turned-farmer Wendell Berry. You may ask: Why on earth would anyone read poetry for a book club selection? I ask in response: Why wouldn’t you?

To be honest, I burned myself out on poetry in college. I was working on my degree in English and felt all soul-tortured and angst-ridden so I reveled in poems that expressed the general misery that accompanies life. (Oh, Poe, how deliciously morbid you are!) I wrote scads of terrible poems that I have since disposed of because if I am ever famous, I do not want those to come back and haunt me. So believe me when I say that if I were in a book club and they told me we were reading a book of poems for our next selection, I would make gagging sounds and plan to have an appendectomy that day.

That’s why I chose a slim volume. While it may be more comfortable to shy away from something that seems unpleasant, I encourage you to try it anyway; try something different, something that will make your brain think in ways you’re not so used to thinking. Spring starts at the end of this quarter. As our thoughts turn from holing up in warm rooms under piles of blankets to playing in the mud and watching green things poke up through the earth, celebrate with the reading and discussing of poems that glorify nature and community. Also, this book is 118 pages. It gives you plenty to talk about but won’t bog you down with long passages and endless days of reading.

More Speculative Fiction

Book club books tend toward the literary, examining things like domestic relationships, personal growth, and life in general. However, there are a lot of discussable books out there in genres like science fiction, fantasy, dystopian fiction, and other “let’s pretend the world looks like this” types.

Bird Box

by Josh Malerman
Last year, I added Bird Box, a psychological horror story about a young woman trying to survive disaster by literally not seeing.

The Fifth Season

by N.K. Jemisin
Also added last year was the Hugo Award winner The Fifth Season, a sci-fi/fantasy(ish) piece set in the far future, wherein two incredible acts of violence set off natural disasters, introducing a season of death, as well as a quest for vengeance and maybe redemption.

The Sudden Appearance of Hope

by Claire North
This year, The Sudden Appearance of Hope will make its debut as a Book Club Express kit. I hope you take the time to read it when it becomes available because there’s so much to talk about in this genre-blending novel about a woman in the corporate-controlled, self-involved near future who cannot be remembered.

Do any of these pique your interest? If so, add them to your group’s reading list or join a book club and suggest checking them out, or start your own reading group! The American Library Association put together this quick start guide for doing just that.

Want to see what else we have available as a Book Club Express kit? Find out here!

Get the Most Out of Kanopy

In 2018, Douglas County Libraries (DCL) introduced a new service called Kanopy, a streaming video service much like Netflix that is bursting with content.

Kanopy’s offerings include award-winning documentaries, indie and world cinema, classics, Criterion Collection films, Paramount films, children’s movies, instructional videos, and even The Great Courses! With 30,000 titles and new content added regularly, it is a gold mine of variety to dive into!

A note for students: If you have access to Kanopy through school, you may be happy to know that there are additional titles available through the library. Institutions offering Kanopy pay per use, so kids’ movies and non-educational content are either limited or unavailable with a school subscription.

With your DCL library card, you can view four movies per month.

If you feel overwhelmed with choices, these tips will help you get the most out of Kanopy.

  • Set up your kids with their own accounts using their own library cards. Let them use up their views on Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus while you save room for an offbeat French film you’ve been wanting to watch!
  • Like Netflix, you can make a list of films you’d like to watch. Start a list and add everything and anything that interests you.
  • Now narrow down your list. Many titles may already be available in the library’s DVD collection. If you can’t wait, watch it on Kanopy. If you can, request the physical copy. Win-win!
  • Each Great Courses episode counts as one viewing. If you are a binge-watcher like me, you might prefer to order them from the library on DVD.
  • Check out Rotten Tomatoes for reviews and browse Kanopy’s Staff Picks for ideas.
  • Make some popcorn, settle in, and get comfy!

Here are some Kanopy offerings I recently watched.


In Istanbul, Turkey, street cats are plentiful and can be viewed as pests … or a blessing. This documentary follows a handful of Istanbul residents who have formed a special bond with their pushy, resilient feline friends. Bar one injured kitten who is taken to the vet for care, this is a low-key, safe watch for the family (old enough to read subtitles) and enjoyable for cat lovers. It also offers a picture of “old city” Istanbul and touches on the issues of growth, development and displacement.

The Mask You Live In

Just as women face unrealistic and absurd ideals around appearance, behavior, and what “femininity” constitutes, men are saddled with unrealistic expectations on the other side of the gender line. When we force humans into two-dimensional molds, pieces of their individuality are bound to be severed. This film gave me hope that we can create a better world for men and boys today and tomorrow. I particularly loved the mentors and models and what they had to share.

Tokyo Fiancée

This was described as a “romantic comedy” while being neither terribly romantic, nor quite comedy. I feel it would be better described as a whimsical coming-of-age story based on Amélie Nothomb’s memoir. Amélie is a Belgian girl who was born in Japan, spent the first few years of her life there, and while growing up became obsessed with Japan and its culture. She moves there to teach French and has an affair with a young Japanese man she tutors. I was greatly entertained by a movie set in Japan, about a Japanophile, entirely spoken in French, in the company of Japanese Francophiles. What the film can offer viewers is a vicarious trip to Japan and a whole lot of French to listen to and enjoy.

I Am Not Your Negro

Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this film is based on the unfinished memoir of author James Baldwin, in which Baldwin reflects on racism, African-American history, his experience as an African-American man living in and out of the United States, and his encounters with Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers. The film is beautifully done and includes clips of Baldwin himself. The language and imagery throughout are powerful and wrenching. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between The World and Me is an excellent companion to this film. You can also find James Baldwin’s books in our collection.

And Then My Heart Sighed: Poetry to Empower & Encourage Connection

Do you ever hear song lyrics that speak directly to you? Or maybe you overheard someone deliver a one-liner that was an “Aha!” moment of epic importance. Poetry can be as precise as a scalpel, as powerful as pain, and as subtle as a shifting shadow. It does not need to rhyme, follow any set structure, or be written over 100 years ago in order to be important, relevant and masterful. One size does not fit all, nor is there a single key to unlock every mind and heart. These collections can be diligently read from cover to cover or browsed erratically with abandon.

Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life

by Cleo Wade
Heart Talk is an uplifting combination of poetry, mantras, and pep talks from Cleo Wade, a hugely popular Instagrammer. This is the kind of book that you want to have multiple copies of: one at work for when you need more confidence for your big presentation, another on your nightstand so you can both go to sleep and wake up with joyful words to inspire you, and a few around the house just to gift to those you love.

The Dark Between Stars

by Atticus
Here’s a collection by another poet of Instagram fame. There is so much to love about this book — the phenomenal photographs, the alternating fonts, and the potent free verse. I dare you to read through this book and not be able to find at least one piece that you want to re-read, send to a loved one, or get tattooed on yourself. Also, check out Atticus’ first incredible collection of poetry, Love Her Wild.

Take Me With You and Lord of the Butterflies

by Andrea Gibson
This Colorado author’s poetry includes words of healing, as well as encouragement to be proudly and uniquely yourself. Small in size but huge in emotional impact, Take Me With You packs a quotable — and portable — punch! And check out her newest collection, Lord of the Butterflies.

Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers

by Rupi Kaur
I love it when a self-published gem gets the love and attention that it deserves! Rupi Kaur’s first book of poetry, Milk and Honey, garnered enough admiration to do just that and has become an international bestseller. Both of her collections touch on topics of femininity, violence, family, love and loss.

The Chaos of Longing

by K.Y. Robinson
Vulnerability is a theme in both K.Y. Robinson’s collection of poetry and her writing style. The author addresses her struggle with mental illness, her hopeless romanticism, and her many heartaches and healing experiences in this e-book.

The Princess Saves Herself in This One

by Amanda Lovelace
Need a boost of empowerment? The title of this collection alone makes me want to find a trusty steed, don a shiny outfit, and find a grumpy dragon to befriend. (Slaying dragons? We’re better than that silliness.) Amanda Lovelace divides her book into four parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, and you. Don’t let the delightful title fool you, though. There are heavy hearts, powerful language, and a wild complexity of emotions between the pages of this e-book, as most heroes and heroines fight their most challenging battles in darkness.


A Frozen Land: Books & Films Set in Russia

Winter is upon us. Snow is falling and the nights are cold and dark. While you wait for summer, why not revel in the frigid temperatures and discover some exceptional books and movies set in one of the coldest countries on earth, Russia?

Russia fascinates me and I love discovering new literature and film about it. The next time it snows, I invite you to curl up on your sofa with a blanket and a hot drink and dive into a story set in this faraway land of ice and snow.

Here are some suggestions to get you started.

The Bear and the Nightingale

by Katherine Arden
The first of a trilogy, Katherine Arden’s debut novel is a fantastical story set in the dark forests of medieval Russia. Arden draws from Russian folklore to tell the story of Vasya, a girl who can communicate with the spirits that guard her father’s house and roam the frozen wilderness outside. The novel is rich with detail, and Arden’s lyrical prose reads like a fairy tale.

Between Shades of Gray

by Ruta Sepetys
Ruta Sepetys’s profound historical fiction reveals a little-known corner of World War II history. It is the story of Lina, a young Lithuanian girl who is torn from her homeland when Stalin orders the Great Purge of the Baltic States. Along with her mother and brother, Lina makes a harrowing journey across Russia to the coldest and remotest portion of Siberia. It is only her drawings that keep Lina from giving up in despair.

The Romanov Sisters

by Helen Rappaport
Before Princess Diana, Anastasia Romanov and her sisters were the most popular royals of the early 20th century. Helen Rappaport brings them to life through their letters and diaries. Discover the real women behind the much sensationalized story of the last royal family of Russia and their tragic assassination in a basement at Ekaterinburg.

War & Peace (2016)

An epic, eight-part adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s celebrated novel about Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. The story centers on Pierre, Natasha and Andrei, whose lives intertwine as they are challenged by war, loss and scandal. Filmed on location, this brilliant miniseries brings Imperial Russia to life with stunning scenery, gorgeous music (featuring the Latvian Radio Choir), and compelling performances by its actors.

Anna Karenina (2013)

Joe Wright’s inventive film adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic novel of forbidden love places the characters inside a dilapidated theater. The actors move and interact in a confined space that signifies their entrapment in a world of strict societal rules. It is only when they break out of this world that they are able to enter the wild Russian countryside and live their true lives.

Laughing Out Loud

Is there a greater feeling than sitting in bumper-to-bumper, rush-hour traffic amid a sea of brake lights and laughing so hard that coffee (or tea, in my case) almost erupts from your nose? In the spirit of sanity-saving frivolity, I present this list of hilarious audiobooks written by talented women willing to share their most embarrassing, uncomfortable, emotional, and just plain bizarre life experiences.

While listening to these books, you’re bound to say to yourself at some point, “Yep, I can totally relate!” And some of the stories are almost guaranteed to raise your eyebrows more than a few times. Each author intersperses stories of chagrin-worthy moments with life lessons learned, providing a heaping dose of both humor and self-reflection.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)

by Jenny Lawson
Hands down my favorite humorous audiobook of all time! I listened to this little gem while training for a half-marathon. I lost count of how many times I had to literally stop running to catch my breath from laughing too hard. People driving by likely thought I was overcome by the physical exertion, but I can assure you those were tears of joy on my cheeks!

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life

by Samantha Irby
Samantha Irby doesn’t pull any punches, and referring to her as “unapologetic” is an understatement. I often found myself nervously giggling while double-checking that my windows were rolled up so that I didn’t accidentally offend any nearby drivers.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

by Amy Schumer
Amy Schumer puts her own characteristic flair on the endearing self-deprecation mixed with inflated self-confidence style of humor. She covers some pretty tough (but important) subject matter, all while delivering more than a few guffaw-inducing moments.

The Tao of Martha

by Jen Lancaster
The author openly shares her successes and many, many failures in her quest to “Martha up” nearly every aspect of her life. What results is a veritable cornucopia of disastrous narratives, ranging from an intimate insect assault while creating a cutting garden, to projectile yolk when prepping for an Easter brunch party, to the joys and challenges of adopting cats with anger management issues. All are told with humor and humility.

Yes Please

by Amy Poehler
While many of the references in this book might go straight over your head if you are not well-versed in Saturday Night Live comedy, there are still plenty of humorous and tender anecdotes to keep you smirking and sighing. In the audiobook, Amy goes a step beyond just name-dropping (which she does quite a bit of as she really does seem to know everybody and their mother, brother, or alleged lover in showbiz) — she actually voice-drops, with Seth Meyers, Carol Burnett, Patrick Stewart, Kathleen Turner, and even her own parents making vocal cameos.


Time (Travel) Is on My Side, Yes It Is

I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of time travel and entertained by the variety of ways that authors have incorporated the concept into literature. For me, I’d never want to go backward. Why would I want to dwell in the past? And, of course, you can’t do anything there without disturbing the fabric of time, collapsing our universe in on itself or creating an alternate universe with its own set of problems.

I’d rather roll the dice and see where mankind goes in the future, hopefully, with the ability to keep moving forward if that place in time doesn’t suit me. Luckily, the literary options for time travel in many directions are bountiful. Here are a handful you might enjoy.

The Time Machine

by H.G. Wells
Wells’ classic from 1895 describes a time traveler’s adventure as he journeys 800,000 years in the future and experiences a new civilization. A groundbreaking piece of science fiction for its time, it is still an exciting ride 120-plus years later. Sadly, we still don’t have time machines, and don’t get me started on where the heck our flying cars are!


by Stephen King
Jack Epping has the opportunity to travel back in time to prevent President Kennedy’s assassination. Through a strange portal at the back of a diner that can take him back to 1958, he flits back and forth, creating a new life in the past that will give him the chance to alter history. Of course, five years is a long time to wait, so as he adjusts to life in the past Jack inserts himself in the storyline, discovers love, and works to solve a mystery from his present. It’s a long book but an exciting story.

Paper Girls

by Brian K. Vaughan
A graphic novel. On the morning after Halloween in 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls get caught in a time-travel conflict that skips them back and forth across time. If you like the ’80s retro resurgence (e.g., Stranger Things, Ready Player One), then you’ll enjoy this one. As with many graphic novels, episodes are still being written and released, so you’ll need to wait to see how things get resolved.

Time and Again

by Jack Finney
Advertising artist Simon Morley is approached to participate in a secret government project to learn whether it is feasible to send people back into the past by self-hypnosis and environmental control. Morley travels back and forth between 1970 and 1882 New York City, becoming immersed in the past. There, he uncovers secrets and discovers that other time-travelers are making changes that can affect the past and the present — or is it the present and the future? Illustrated with reproductions of photos from the 1880s, Time and Again presents time travel without the use of technology or portals, making it an unusual twist on the genre.

Three Years with the Rat

by Jay Hosking
Featuring a nonlinear storyline that develops slowly and can be sometimes confusing, Three Years with the Rat tells the story of a young man who returns to his hometown to reconnect with his sister, a graduate student in psychophysics. When she and her boyfriend disappear, their trail leads to (or from) a mirrored box, a rat, and a strange note. Is it time travel or just the ability to slow and stop time?

Dark Matter

by Blake Crouch
Perhaps more alternate/multi-universe than time travel — call it side travel if you like; nevertheless, it’s a fun read. Dark Matter is a fast-paced thriller in which a physics professor gets kidnapped through time, visiting other versions of his world and meeting the people and adventures that occupy those spaces and times. The life he now has is not the one he remembers, and lines are blurred between who and where he is. Is one world a dream and the other reality? Who kidnapped him and for what purpose? How can he get back to where he was? And where exactly is that? Yep, there are lots of questions with this one!

The Time Traveler’s Almanac

compiled by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer
Sometimes, a short story is just as fun as a long one (take that, Mr. King!). This collection of nearly 70 journeys through time from such authors as Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, William Gibson, Ursula K. Le Guin, George R.R. Martin, Michael Moorcock, and H.G. Wells provides quick and tasty bites into time travel. From the ancient past to the distant future, the stories in The Time Traveler’s Almanac will meet any fan’s need. If you don’t like one story, do some time traveling of your own and jump to another!

YA Lit – It’s Not Just for Teens

When was the last time you picked up a young adult book? Was it when you were a young adult? Or when your teen was reading something for his or her literature class and you decided to read along?

Young adult literature, or YA lit, continues to evolve, and it isn’t just for teens anymore. Authors are telling amazing stories about young people, with themes that go beyond crushes and trying to fit in with the popular crowd. Well, OK, there is still some of that too. But you will also find meatier themes and topics than you might expect.

In The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, main character Starr contends with racial identity and finding her voice in a world full of turmoil.

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine takes readers to a world where a single entity controls all knowledge, and paper books are illegal. Who should control the knowledge that exists in the world?

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen explores questions about what people will do for money and how teams learn to work together — or don’t.

Kora, the daughter of King Midas, must reconcile with the mistakes of her father while learning how to deal with her own mistakes in A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan.


In today’s YA lit, you’ll find heroes and heroines who are strong, or grow to be strong. The stories often move quickly, and not necessarily because they are short; rather, the action and dialog don’t slow down.

The themes that resonated with you as a teen will likely still resonate today, because we continue to try to find ourselves, understand the world around us, and look for ways to make a difference for others throughout our lives.

Learn to Code

Today’s digital world is expanding at a record pace and the importance of programming, or coding, continues to grow. While computer science seeks to solve problems using computers, coding is the magic of implementing those solutions — for IT, scientists, engineers, data analysts, artists and designers, and even those in the fields of medicine and finance. This means that coders are highly sought after, and well-compensated too.

So let’s chat about learning to code. If you’ve ever been curious about it, or seen a creative website or app that spoke to you, dip your toes into the technology with these resources for beginners.

Learn to Code: A Brain-Friendly Guide

by Eric Freeman
This guide will help you learn how to write code for anything with a CPU, including your computer and mobile device. Using the programming language of Python, you’ll learn the core concepts of programming and computer science.

Begin to Code With Python

by Rob S. Miles
This is a fantastic resource, even if you don’t have any experience! It boasts a full-color tutorial to help beginners learn the basics of the Python programming language.

Cracking Codes With Python: An Introduction to Building and Breaking Ciphers

by Al Sweigart
Here’s your crash course in programming and testing Python code.

Coding: Everything You Need to Get Started With Programming Using Python

by Mike Saunders
You’ll find simple descriptions and step-by-step guides to help navigate the Python programming language — everything you need to learn to write code.

Coding All-in-One for Dummies

by Nikhil Abraham
Full of easy-to-understand information about coding for a website, designing a mobile app, and discovering the world of data science.

Learn Python 3 the Hard Way: A Very Simple Introduction to the Terrifyingly Beautiful World of Computers and Code

by Zed Shaw

A book that helps you learn as you go! You’ll learn Python while working through 52 expertly designed exercises that allow you to type out code, correct mistakes, and watch the programs run.

Coding for Kids

The resources and cool tech toys here can help encourage digital creativity in your kids, with lots of hands-on interaction. You might even enjoy these too!

Help Your Kids With Computer Science: A Unique Visual Step-by-Step Guide to Computers, Coding, and Communication

The clear-cut information presented here covers topics like hardware, software, coding languages, social media, and troubleshooting.


Coding at its most basic! Code-a-Pillar is the perfect gadget to help kids, even toddlers, learn the principles of coding, sequencing, and critical thinking. The Code-a-Pillar is made up of blocks that each contain a directional setting. When snapped together, each block will dictate whether the Code-a-Pillar turns right or left, moves forward, or just plays music. It is up to the builder to get the right code to move the Code-a-Pillar from a starting point to an ending point of his or her choosing.


Dash is a robot that can navigate objects and respond to sounds using picture-based coding language. It can be used to explore fun, playful lessons in algorithm design, command sequences, control flow, problem-solving, and other random things. Four main education apps are available to control Dash; they’re free from the iTunes and Google Play app stores.

Little Bits

These Little Bits have been compared to electronic LEGOs for kids (and adults). The kits are designed to get people as young as 8 years old to learn basic coding skills and to think about electronics and how hardware is built. With Little Bits, your kids can build gadgets like robotic cars and musical instruments, or create new inventions.

On the Journey

There is nothing more fascinating to me than travel. The concept of a journey is broad and it applies to all of us. As Anaïs Nin stated, “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” Even if each of us has our own path to travel, and our own story to write, we often look to the stories of others in search of truths, some knowledge, help, or just out of curiosity and for the simple thrill of enjoyment.

Many of history’s most notable literary works are built on the theme of traveling: think Homer’s Odyssey, Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, Cervantes’s Don Quixote, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Verne’s Journey to the Center of The Earth, Tolkien’s Hobbit, or Coelho’s The Alchemist. The subject is inexhaustible, as life continuously writes new stories.

Recently, a few new titles grabbed my attention. These books have one thing in common: the concept of a journey. But the stories unfold in various ways, revealing the most urgent issues of our time.

Journeys: An American Story

by Andrew Tisch & Mary Skafidas
This collection of 72 essays includes personal stories about immigrating to America. These stories are from various periods of time showing the many ways people arrived on the continent. Some came to the new land escaping oppression in their own countries; some came to the “Land of Hope and Opportunity” to fulfill their dreams of a better life; some were searching for love and freedom; too many were brought here against their will. The last chapter of the book includes a quote from Ronald Reagan that provides hope for every immigrant who comes to America, and at the end of the book the authors provide pages for readers to add their own stories — because each individual experience becomes “America’s story.”

The Girl With Seven Names

by Hyeonseo Lee
This is a true story about a 17-year-old girl from North Korea who lived on the border with China. She decided to cross the border into China to escape her homeland. She could not have imagined that it would be 12 years before she would be reunited with her family. Lee’s book is a heartbreaking testimony of survival, bravery, family love, and commitment. Two other stories of escape from North Korea have caught readers’ attention: Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden, and A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa. Both books capture the incredible courage that put two men on a journey to escape the North Korean regime in search of freedom.

Marwan’s Journey

by Patricia de Arias & Laura Borràs
This story is told from the perspective of a young boy, Marwan, who is forced to leave his home because of war. He finds himself among many other souls on a challenging journey through the deserts and across the sea in search of safety. The beautifully illustrated book is a testimony of those who have lost their homeland. Armed only with hope, Marwan is searching for a safe place to build “a house with the cement of his sure steps” and “the walls with happiness.” This book, which is great for children and parents, paints an emotional picture of a refugee’s tragic experience, providing perspective and teaching empathy.

To Shake the Sleeping Self

by Jedidiah Jenkins
This memoir details a 14,000-mile bicycle journey from Oregon to Patagonia, written by a man who once was afraid of being “funneled into a life he didn’t choose” ( At the age of 30, Jedidiah Jenkins decided to make his life more exciting and go for an adventure. “If discontent is your disease, travel is medicine … travel has a way of shaking the brain awake,” he writes. Jenkins received wide attention when he recorded his story on Instagram. The author’s memoir is his reflection on the physically and spiritually challenging journey.

A Year Off

by Alexandra & David Brown
Alexandra and David had only known each other for just over two months when they decided to go on a big journey together, following the advice of Bill Murray: “If you have someone who you think is the one, take that person and travel around the world. And go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of … When you come back, if you are still in love with that person, get married at the airport.” They quit their desk jobs and took off on a journey to visit more than 20 countries. In this book, they tell their story from the road, reflecting on adventure and presenting interesting thoughts about life. The book is part memoir, part practical travel guide, and part traveling essay in one.

Travels With Herodotus

by Ryszard Kapuściński
Kapuściński was an acclaimed journalist and foreign correspondent. He grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Poland and was the only Communist-era Polish journalist appointed to work in Africa, Asia and South America. With a copy of Herodotus’s The Histories, Kapuściński traveled to India, China and Ethiopia to discover historical places and learn about unique cultures. His observations and philosophical reflections are captured in this fascinating literary work. You may also want to explore the author’s other titles: The Shadow of the Sun (2001), a report from Kapuściński’s travels to Africa, and Imperium (1995), a memoir of his journey through the Soviet empire — both of which are available through Prospector.

The Artist’s Journey

by Steven Pressfield
Pressfield is the bestselling author of fiction works including Gates of Fire and The Profession, as well as nonfiction titles such as The Lion’s Gate, The War of Art, Turning Pro, and Do the Work. In this, his new book, Pressfield encourages readers to find a purpose in their existence. According to the author, there is an artist in each of us and it is up to each of us to find a purpose and do the work we were born to do. We are on a fascinating journey of self-discovery. Pressfield gives practical guidance on what it means to be an artist and what the artist’s journey is about. Will you answer the writer’s call?

Tough Mugs, Brassy Dames & (Lots of) Hats: Noir Fiction & Film

Noir fiction, sometimes called hard-boiled fiction, and film noir are rarely as simple as they seem. You probably know the characters and scenarios: a tough guy (with a soft spot or an unseen weakness); a tough gal (smarter than she seems and always able to manipulate that guy); a dark, gritty cityscape; dingy bars; and some sort of crime — extortion, robbery or murder. And yeah, these characters like to wear hats.

If you’re interested in exploring the stories and authors of this genre, here are a few titles to wet your whistle.

Classic Noir

Red Harvest

by Dashiell Hammett
Hammett’s quick-talking, hard-drinking characters set the standard for noir fiction. In Hammett’s first novel, Red Harvest (1929), the private investigator known as the Continental Op takes on a town nicknamed Poisonville while investigating a murder in the midst of a violent labor dispute. The Continental Op character returns in a number of Hammett’s novels as does investigator Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon) and “retired” detective Nick Charles, who drinks and solves crimes with the help of his wife, Nora (The Thin Man).

The Big Sleep

by Raymond Chandler

Published in 1939, Chandler’s first novel features tough-guy detective Philip Marlowe, a character that Chandler used in several of his books. When a case of blackmail involving the daughter of a California millionaire leads to murder, Marlowe becomes embroiled in a troublesome case of extortion complicated by kidnapping, pornography, seduction and murder.

Noir of the ’60s

Sinner Man

by Lawrence Block
Block’s first novel was published in 1968 but was “lost” for almost 50 years as it was originally published under a pseudonym with a different title before it reappeared as Sinner Man in 2018. To escape punishment for a murder he didn’t mean to commit, insurance man Don Barshter must take on a new identity: Nathaniel Crowley, ferocious up-and-comer in the New York mob. But can he find safety in the skin of another man … a worse man … a sinner man?

One Fearful Yellow Eye

by John D. MacDonald
MacDonald put out a series of crime novels between 1964 and 1984 that featured “salvage consultant” Travis McGee, who lives on a houseboat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and investigates crimes to recover lost property for a 50 percent fee. One Fearful Yellow Eye is representative of the series as McGee helps his friend Glory Doyle by traveling to Chicago to investigate the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars that occurred during Glory’s husband’s dying days.

Noir of the ’90s & Beyond

L.A. Confidential

by James Ellroy
Published in 1990 as the third book in Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet, L.A. Confidential tells the story of crime and corruption surrounding a horrific mass murder and the lawmen caught up on both sides of the law. Set in Los Angeles in the ‘40s and ‘50s, the L.A. Quartet includes the novels The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, and White Jazz, featuring new and recurring characters as police and gangsters blur the lines between right and wrong.

The Black-Eyed Blond: A Philip Marlowe Novel

by Benjamin Black
This 2014 novel by Booker Prize-winner John Banville (writing as Benjamin Black) picks up the Marlowe character in the 1950s. A young, beautiful, and expensively dressed client wants Marlowe to find her former lover, a man named Nico Peterson. Marlowe sets off on his search, but almost immediately discovers that Peterson’s disappearance is merely the first in a series of bewildering events. Soon he is tangling with one of Bay City’s richest families and discovering how far they will go to protect their fortune. It’s a worthy continuation of the Raymond Chandler series.

Noir: A Novel

by Christopher Moore
Moore’s latest release takes place in San Francisco in 1947 and he creates a noir novel with his typically crazy sense of humor. An enigmatic, comely blonde named Stilton (like the cheese) walks into the scruffy gin joint where Sammy “Two Toes” Tiffin tends bar. It is love at first sight, but before Sammy can make his move, an Air Force general arrives with some urgent business. A suspicious flying object has been spotted up the Pacific coast, followed by a mysterious plane crash in a distant patch of desert in New Mexico that goes by the name Roswell. When one of Sammy’s schemes goes south and the Cheese mysteriously vanishes, Sammy is forced to contend with his own dark secrets if he wants to find his girl.

Film Noir

It wouldn’t and couldn’t be a brief discussion of noir fiction without mentioning its celluloid cousin, film noir of the ’40s and ’50s. So many classic novels were made into film, it is sometimes hard to read about Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe without hearing the voice of Humphrey Bogart; but here are a few films that didn’t star Bogie.

Double Indemnity (1944)

Based on a 1943 novella by hard-boiled fiction writer James M. Cain, directed by Billy Wilder, and with a cast including Fred MacMurray (pre-My Three Sons), Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson, Double Indemnity tells the story of an insurance agent who becomes involved with an attractive woman who wants her husband dead to collect insurance money. Things don’t work out as planned.


Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews star in Director Otto Preminger’s story of a New York detective investigating the brutal murder of a woman in her fashionable apartment. As the detective grows obsessed with the case, he finds himself falling in love with the dead woman. Developed from a novel by Vera Caspary, Laura is filled with dark twists and turns in a typical film noir fashion.

The Maltese Falcon

I lied! I couldn’t do film noir without Bogart. The Maltese Falcon is my favorite and I couldn’t ignore it, with a great cast including Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Bogie, and directed by Walter Houston. It’s a film with great dialogue, characters, and a plot that doesn’t stop twisting as P.I. Sam Spade investigates the murder of his partner during a stakeout, where all roads lead to the theft and recovery of a black bird.

Want More?

If you can’t find the noir titles you’re looking for in Douglas County Libraries’ collection, be sure to search Prospector. All DCL library cardholders have access to this combined catalog from other Colorado and Wyoming public and academic library collections. Visit and click Search Prospector, or ask a DCL staff member for help in finding that title you’re looking for!