Thursday, April 06, 2017


After many years of "bloggering", the RPL Staff Picks Blog will be moving to the website during #NationalLibraryWeek (April 9th-15th). We'll be on break this week while we make the switch so go ask Mayor Stoney what he recommends you read next when he visits Broad Rock this Sunday to kick off our week-long celebration!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

And then the murders began.

Game time! The internet is always up to no good and we are not above jumping into the fray when it comes to literary nonsense. Lately there have been a lot of posts swirling about online with folks adding "And then the murders began." as the second line to famous books. In some cases, this is an improvement to the original texts. We couldn't resist, and thought we'd share a few of our favorites here.

 "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. And then the murders began." —George Orwell, 1984

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. And then the murders began." —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities 

"The Miss Lonelyhearts of the New York Post-Dispatch (Are you in trouble?—Do-you-need-advice?—Write-to-Miss-Lonelyhearts-and-she-will-help-you) sat at his desk and stared at a piece of white cardboard. And then the murders began." —Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts 

"Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested. And then the murders began." —Franz Kafka, The Trial

"Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.  And then the murders began."—James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 

"Mother died today.  And then the murders began." —Albert Camus, The Stranger 

"Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. And then the murders began."—Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway 

"For a long time, I went to bed early. And then the murders began."—Marcel Proust, Swann's Way

"He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. And then the murders began."—Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Children's lit works too!

"Where's Papa going with that axe?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. And then the murders began" --E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

"The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day.  And then the murders began." -- Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

"In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. And then the murders began." --Ludwig Bemelmans, Madeline

"The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home.And then the murders began."-- Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

"When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. And then the murders began."-- Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

"'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,' grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. And then the murders began."-- Louisa May Alcott,  Little Women

"The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another his mother called him 'WILD THING!' and Max said 'I'LL EAT YOU UP!' so he was sent to bed without eating anything.And then the murders began."-- Maurice Sendak, Where The Wild Things Are

Thursday, March 23, 2017

We made it!

The 25th Annual Richmond French Film Festival, co-sponsored by VCU and UR, is upon us and promises to be the best yet!  Not only is the festival occurring over a full week at both the Byrd Theatre and the University of Richmond but there are also special events scattered throughout, such as a live concert by Henry Padovani, one of the founding members of The Police (following a documentary about him) and a special poetry recitation by one of France’s preeminent actors, Philippe Torreton, which closes the festival.  

Padovani pictured center

Jacques Perrin
Other special guests include composer Bruno Coulais and director-producer-actor Jacques Perrin.  They will be presenting symposium lectures as well as introducing and moderating q-and-a sessions for both films they have worked on together and separately. One of these, the Coulais-scored Coraline, was a popular American release in 2010.

Winged Migration, a joint hit for both, was widely shown in the United States (I saw it at the much-missed Westhampton Theatre) but on Friday afternoon it will be shown in its original French release, Le Peuple Migrateur.  As the Festival poster proudly proclaims, 700 films have been screened and 850 members of the French film industry have come to share their experiences with us since the first festival in 1993.  This year’s program includes 8 features, 6 documentaries (3 by Perrin) and 11 short films, plus the first North American showing of the Magic Lantern show from the Cinematheque Francaise.

There are several past Festival selections currently available in our DVD collection, including last year’s The Clearstream Affair.  My favorite drama of all those I have seen is Claude Miller’s (the Honorary Godfather of the Festival who passed away in 2012) Un Secret/A Secret (2008) and my favorite comedy is Le Prenom/What’s in a Name? (2013).  Other notable selections include the children’s film Belle and Sebastian, Gemma Bovery, The Hedgehog (adapted from the Muriel Barbery novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog), Pour une Femme (For a Woman), RenoirLe nom des gens (The Names of Love), Hors la loi (Outside the Law) and the extraordinary documentary Oceans, yet another outstanding cinematic work by Jacques Perrin!

(Many thanks to Robert Hickman of Westover Hills, our resident French film expert, for this annual update!)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Dublin International Literary Award 2018

...yet so little time.
I couldn't pass on the opportunity to blog about our Dublin picks on St. Patrick's Day, could I?
Every year, the RPL Dubliners read literally hundreds of new books and keep notes on our favorites to nominate for the Dublin Literary Award, then get together in the dead of winter and fight to the death over who has the best list. 
Just kidding! We are usually pretty civilized about it. This year we are thrilled to have voted on our obsessive lists of fantastic fiction (published in English for the first time in 2016) and proudly endorse these three picks for the 2018 prize!

Drumroll please:

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
A must-read for absolutely everyone, Homegoing is compulsively readable, a finely crafted story of two families separated by oceans, centuries, and slavery. It is an American epic with roots in 18th century Ghana, a sweeping multi-generational family saga that will get into your soul and stay with you forever.

The Nix by Nathan Hill
The Nix presents a political history of Chicago politics from the 1940s to current day with both humor and appropriate darkness. A loaded novel in terms of both plots and characters, The Nix follows Samuel Anderson, an English professor who prefers playing a specific video game, from a time when he is told his mother, Faye, who deserted him as a child,has been arrested for throwing rocks at an extremely conservative presidential candidate. Faye's life, and eventually Samuel's, become intertwined in flashbacks, before the reader views certain parallel circumstances between mother and son, reality and fantasy, and politics and daily life. 

Nathan Hill manages to weave historical and cultural details together in The Nix to present an accurate portrait of not only U.S. politics, but a global study of what makes politicians and their non- followers tick and compete.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Set in New York City in 2007 on the eve of the global financial crisis, a young family from Cameroon  find their immigration status tenuous after Lehman Brothers collapses and Jende loses his job. His heart pulled in two directions, back to his home in Limbe or to stay in New York with his wife and children, Jende and Neni must decide where they belong. Behold the Dreamers is a poignant love letter to home.

Now on to those 2017 books...

Thanks, Dubliners, for your contributions to this wonderfully never-ending process. Keep reading!

High five, Dublin Award committee

Thursday, March 09, 2017


It's not all fantastic fiction here in blogland, sometimes we like to get a little dirty out in the garden (and listen to an audiobook!), make our own clothes (while listening to an audiobook!), do some repairs around the house (while listening to get the idea), and even make our own darn shoes (audiobooooook!).

Well, have I got some DIY handbooks for YOU! Now, I know what you're thinking, internet friends, "isn't it easier to just YouTube that?" Sure, there's an instructional video online for just about anything--from A-Z (surviving an atomic apocalypse to surving a zombie apocalypse)! It's OK, I feel you. I successfully changed my own headlights last year in the Auto Zone parking lot with just my phone and a YouTube video.

But there's just something about having a handy how-to guide in your hot little hands to get you motivated to take on a project, or inspire you to create and do cool things with your wits and bare hands.You know what won't happen while you spend hours sitting on the couch, scrolling through smoothie recipes on Pinterest? You won't bump into a neighbor doing the same thing. A neighbor, IRL, you can look at and talk to about your mutual affection for smoothie making! It's a wonderful feeling. So, crawl out of your bunker and browse the many DIY offerings on hand at your neighborly neighborhood library.

Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener's Notebook

I have never gardened before this year, and now I want to plant all of the things. The potential for failure is high!  But this book is giving me life.
The organization of the book is fantastic, and while I don't love spiral bindings on the shelf, it makes it easy to lay the book flat near your pots and dirt for hands-free planning. Frankly, the cover has so much information on it, you hardly even need to open it.

Salad Days: Recipes for delicious organic salads and dressings for every season

Now that I have my garden all planned out, I need to have a plan for all those little leafy greens I'll be harvesting. This book is basically all about tasty dressings because "salad recipe" is usually "take pile of leafy things, add dressing". But where does dressing come from if not a bottle? Fear not, this book solves that age-old mystery. These are some crazy, year-round, all season salads too. I mean, "Sauteed Fiddlehead Fern and m√Ęche salad"? STOP. Eating ferns? I thought ferns were just for looking!
Finally, an end to the tyranny of dressing in bottles!

Custom-Make Your Own Shoes and Handbags

This book is BANANAS, you guys. It shows you how to use an old pair of shoes to create a plaster last (shoemaker term for foot shaped plaster thing), and shows how cast a last from your foot. Those shoes will be custom fitted to your exact foot. Imagine! I almost can't. Then as if that isn't enough information, this book shows you how to make handbags. Of course you could do what the author does and make shoes and a bag to match every dress, or not, because that's a little insane.

If you want to brew your own beer, but you want to break all the rules in doing so, this is your guide. Beer brewing is serious business. When those things explode you'll know what I'm talking about. Your viral GIF recipes aren't going to tell you what to do if your pilsner's popping in the wrong way.
You can't spell PAIN without I.P.A

And finally, Roughing it Easy

With quite possibly the greatest title ever it isn't hard to imagine why this classic remains on the shelf. It's chock-full of the most useful tips (with illustrations!) one could ever need should they find themselves in the unfortunate situation of having to scramble eggs on a rock. You should really, really check this book out.