Category Archives: book of the week

Book of the Week: Super Sad, True Satire

This week’s book-of-the-week is Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart.  This review is brought to you by Riley Dixon, Student Library Assistant, Class of 2017, Majoring in Creative Writing.

Super Sad True Love Story is located in the Main Stacks, along with many other literary novels, call number: PS3619.H79 S87 2010

cover of super sad true love story by gary shteyngart

Gary Shteyngart’s New York City in Super Sad True Love Story is absurd. Telephone poles read credit scores. Paper books are worthless artifacts. Thanks to your handheld äppärät, which functions as a non-stop social networking device, your most private thoughts are on public display. Everyone knows how desirable you are: fiscally and physically. It is in this New York City that Lenny Abramov, 39-year-old self-deprecating second generation Russian immigrant and the younger, beautiful and equally self-loathing Eunice Park begin a strange courtship. Eunice is of Korean descent, troubled by her familial obligations and brought up in a generation where students simply “scanned for data” and did not read. Together, they play an unlikely Juliet and Romeo, fumbling in the belly of a New York City that has begun to dissolve into chaos. Super Sad has a clear trajectory from the very beginning. Lenny is hell-bent on being united with Eunice and despite the collapse of society as he once knew it, his goal does not falter. As the city collapses into seemingly both a state of martial law and a new world order, Lenny is not fazed. Eunice Park is his destiny. He wholly convinces himself as he writes in his diary, “…things were going to get better. Someday. For me to fall in love with Eunice Park just as the world fell apart would be a tragedy beyond the Greeks.” As the microcosm of New York City shifts irrevocably towards dissolution, Eunice and Lenny fight to hold onto themselves and a quickly disappearing sense of normalcy.

Shteyngart’s prose, while dense, suits the purpose of Super Sad perfectly. At no point is the reader bombarded with unnecessary language, though Shteyngart’s clever use of branding and acronyms sometimes read as uncomfortable as a punch to the gut… if only because they are so recognizable. Super Sad True Love Story reads as a shrill satire on the dangers of greed and capitalism, while at the same time expounding on the painful beauty of learning how one fits into one’s own self, fits into a relationship, and fits into society.

You can check out Super Sad True Love Story and other books by Gary Shteyngart at the Purchase College Library.

Book of the Week: What’s New at the Library

Looking for something to read or listen to during Winter Session?  Try a new arrival!  We’ve added a “New Book Shelf” widget to our homepage so you can browse through items recently added to the library’s collections.

New Books bar

You can also check out this list of newly added materials to find new books, CDs, and DVDs.  Note: these titles are new to our collection, but not necessarily newly published.  Either way, check out one of these great reads!

Book of the Week: JFK, Fact and Fiction

November 22, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This tragic event was a watershed moment in the lives of many Americans and has spawned countless investigations, conspiracy theories, and many works of fiction including a novel by Stephen King and a film by Oliver Stone.  What is it about the Kennedy assassination that continues to capture Americans’ fears and imagination for fifty years?  Do some investigation of your own to learn more about John F. Kennedy’s life and death…


11/22/63 : a Novel by King, Stephen.
Popular Reading Collection. POPULAR COLLECTION.

JFK with Costner, Kevin. dir. by Stone, Oliver.
Academic Film Collection. DVD 3072. (3 hr loan)


An Unfinished Life : John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 by Dallek, Robert.
Main Stacks – Circulating. E842 .D28 2003.

A Thousand Days : John F. Kennedy in the White House (1965) by Schlesinger, Arthur M.
Main Stacks – Circulating. E841 .S3 c. 2

Jacqueline Kennedy : First Lady of the New Frontier by Barbara A. Perry.
Main Stacks – Circulating. E843.K4 P47 2004.

Investigation & Analysis:

Zaprudered : the Kennedy Assassination Film in Visual Culture by Øyvind Vågnes.
Main Stacks – Circulating. E842.9 .V35 2011

Conspiracy in Camelot: the Complete History of the Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (2003) by Kroth, Jerome A.

JFK, Breaking the News, featuring Hugh Aynesworth, Jim Lehrer, Bob Schieffer and other journalists.
Popular Film Collection. DVD 2652

Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (1964)
The Warren Commission. U.S. Government Documents. GOV INTERNET RESOURCE. (ebook)

Spooky Book of the Week: Tales from Washington Irving

Looking for some spooky stories?  Check out these terrifying tales by  Washington Irving, the classic American author from Tarrytown, NY.  It’s Halloween with a Westchester twist.

1. The legend of Sleepy Hollow by Irving, Washington

ONLINE RESOURCE. EBSCOhost ebook. Available. eBook

The Halloween classic about Icabod Crane and the Headless Horseman is now an ebook!

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

2.  The complete tales of Washington Irving by Irving, Washington

Call Number: Main Stacks – Circulating. PS2050 .C6 1975.

Classic, creepy tales like Rip Van Winkle or The Spectre Bridegroom or Strange Stories from a Nervous Gentleman.

3. Tales of the old Dutch graveyard : a walking tour of the burying ground of the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow

Call Number: Main Stacks – Circulating. GT3203 .J86 1984. Available.

Looking for something to do for Halloween weekend?  Take a walking tour of the historical Old Dutch Church graveyard in Sleepy Hollow.  Just watch out for the Headless Horseman…

photo from

Too Hot to Handle? “Fahrenheit 451″ Challenged in 2007!

Many Americans are familiar from high school and college classes with Ray Bradbury’s  Fahrenheit 451, a sci-fi classic about a dystopian society where fire-fighters are agents of government censorship who burn books.

But did you know that Bradbury himself felt his novel was less about censorship and more an indictment of the decline in reading and literature due to the growing influence of television in the 1950s?

image of firefighter helmet with burning books reflected

Fahrenheit 451 Image from

Fahrenheit 451  by  Ray Bradbury.
 Call Number:  PS3503.R167 F3

I had the privilege of learning this and other fascinating insights about the publication of Fahrenheit 451 at a special panel presentation at the American Library Association, held in July 2013 in Chicago, IL.   The panel included a biographer who met biweekly with Bradbury for almost 12 years before his death in 2012, a literary critic who traced the publication history of Bradbury’s novels, and a librarian who helped prevent Fahrenheit 451 from being banned at a Texas high school in 2007.

Yes, this anti-censorship novel has had its own brushes with censorship over the years.   “I don’t think he saw the irony at all,” Librarian Lois Buckman said of the Texas man who tried to ban the novel from his daughter’s high school.  The father claimed it was a “filthy book” that “insulted our firemen.”  Buckman added: “I don’t believe he read the book at all, and if he did read it, I don’t think he understood it.”  Following protests from educators, parents, and high school students, the school board ultimately voted to keep Fahrenheit 451 in the classroom and the school library.

The panel was full of interesting and enriching tidbits. Here are some highlights:

  • The novel was expanded from a short story called “The Fireman,” published in Galaxy Magazine in 1951.
  • Bradbury wrote the book in 1951-52 in the “typewriter room” at the Powell Library at UCLA.
  • Seeking a flashier title for his novel, he called the UCLA Chemistry and Physics departments asking at what temperature paper burned.  The scientists couldn’t give him an answer. Finally, he called the local Fire Department, and they found the number  in a specialized reference book (This was 1953, folks, so there was no Google).  The fire department gave him both Celsius and Fahrenheit temperatures….so his iconic book could have been called Centrigrade 233.
  • In the novel, Guy Montag’s wife is a soap opera zombie, spending all day in front of three giant, wall-sized TV screens.  By the 2010s, Bradbury had a big-screen HD TV in his L.A. home.  (Bradbury, who also wrote screenplays for films and television shows like the Twilight Zone, Playhouse 90, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, told his biographer that he wasn’t against all TV, just bad TV.)
  • The 1971 reprint of Fahrenheit 451 by Bal-Hi was accidentally switched with a redacted version that had been “sanitized” for use in public schools. The editors cut out or altered “offensive” phrases, mostly mild swearing  or passing references to sex.  In the 1970s, the only new edition of Fahrenheit 451 you could buy was a censored one. When Bradbury became aware of the censorship, he made sure that a new edition was reprinted with a “coda” at the end by the author.  He also rescinded his initial approval of the redacted/abridged version.
  • Bradbury usually pronounced the title “Fahrenheit four-five-one” but sometimes said “Fahrenheit four-fifty-one” instead.

Sixty years later,  this book is still generating conversations about censorship, literary culture, and free thought.  You can check it out from the Purchase College Library, Call Number PS3503.R167 F3 or borrow a Ray Bradbury biography from Interlibrary Loan.

–This article was reposted from an eariler entry this summer,  in celebration of Banned Books Week.

BANNED Book of the Week: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Banned Books Week draws attention to both classic and modern novels censored or removed from schools and libraries in the U.S.  We have a tendency to treat book-banning as a thing of the past, something that happened during World War II or the McCarthy Era.  But book banning continues even in 2013.

cover of persepolis by marjane satrapi

In March 2013, the Chicago Public School district removed Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi’s acclaimed graphic novel about her childhood during the Iranian revolution, from all seventh grade classrooms in the city.

There was an outcry by the public, ACLU, and by Chicago teachers unions, but the school district defended its policy, claiming that it hadn’t actually “banned” the book from schools but merely removed it from the curriculum because the book: “contains graphic language and images that are not appropriate for general use in the seventh grade curriculum.” The school district’s letter advised “If your seventh grade teachers have not yet taught this book, please ask them not to do so and to remove any copies of the book from their classrooms.”

It’s a long-standing debate:  Should censorship be allowed to protect children or teens from explicit or offensive materials?  Who gets to decide what qualifies as offensive or explicit?

The irony in the case of Persepolis is that the graphic novel, based on the author’s life and Iranian history, describes the hardships of living under a fundamentalist regime that routinely bans certain types of books, clothing, music, and activities and uses censorship– and more violent tactics– to intimidate its people.   Iran, incidentally, has also banned Persepolis.

Perhaps not so ironically, the school district’s ban of Persepolis lead to increased sales at local bookstores in Chicago.

You can check out Persepolis and other banned books from the Purchase College Library.  Check out our display on the library’s main floor.

Celebrate Banned Books Week!

This week, the Library is celebrating banned, censored, or challenged books as part of national Banned Books Week, Sept. 22nd through Sept. 28th.

Thousands of Libraries across the nation are celebrating. Here’s how you can participate:

  1. Stop by the Library and check out our banned books display.
  2. Tell us what your favorite banned book is via Twitter, @SUNYPurchaseLib, #bannedbooksweek.
  3. Watch like “Read-Outs” and interviews with famous authors on YouTube throughout the week (here’s a taste below…)
  4. Read a banned book!

Here’s a list of the Top 10 most frequently challenged books in America last year (2012):

The 10 most challenged titles of 2012 were:
  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
  6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
  9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

(Just a disclaimer…. Purchase College Library does not ban or remove books from our shelves.  But many books have been banned by schools and libraries elsewhere in the United States)

Book of the Week: Remembering Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney, poet and Nobel Laureate from Northern Ireland and widely recognized as the greatest Irish poet of his generation, died today at age 74.  A Harvard professor from 1985-2006, Heaney authored a prize-winning translation of Beowulf and translated Greek plays as well as epic poems, but he was best known for his poetry and was described by many as the most influential Irish poet since W.B. Yeats.

Remember or rediscover Seamus Heaney by checking out his works at the Library, including the following prose and poetry:

Book of the Week: Welcome to Westchester!

New to campus?  New to New York?  Whether you’re a freshman, transfer student, or new faculty or staff member, you can get to know Westchester County through the Library!

The Library has books on local history, tourist attractions, architecture, retail, local parks, and walking tours. Check out one of these titles and get acquainted with your new home.  

Click on the bookcover for more information!

cover of westchester: an american suburb1. Westchester : the American suburb / edited by Roger Panetta ; foreword by Kenneth T. Jackson.

Call number: Main Stacks – F127.W5 W47 2006

cover of 2. Picturing our past : National Register sites in Westchester County / by Gray Williams ; introduction by Kenneth T. Jackson.

Call number:  Main Stacks  F127.W5 W5 2003. 

cover of walkable westchester3. Walkable Westchester / by Jane Daniels & Walt Daniels.

cover of The Hudson Valley photography book4. The Hudson Valley : from Mannahatta to Kaaterskill / by Susan Wides.

cover of westchester county a pictoral history5. Westchester County, a pictorial history / by Susan Cochran Swanson and Elizabeth Green Fuller.

cover of walks and rambles in westchester co.6. Walks & rambles in Westchester and Fairfield counties : a nature lover’s guide to 36 parks & sanctuaries / Katherine S. Anderson

Call Number: Main Stacks GV199.42.N652 W473 1993

Book of the Week: Back-to-School Non-fiction

Last week, we shared fiction set on college campuses, featuring college-aged protagonists. This week, get ready to go back to school with these non-fiction books culled from history, sociology, and education.  These are great reads for transitioning from summer vacation back into the classroom.

1. What the Best College Students Do (2012) by Ken Bain.

Call Number: Main Stacks – Circulating. LA229 .B24 2012

Summary:  “The author of the best-selling book “What the Best College Teachers Do” is back with more humane, doable, and inspiring help, this time for students who want to get the most out of college–and every other educational enterprise, too. The first thing they should do? Think beyond the transcript. The creative, successful people profiled in this book–college graduates who went on to change the world we live in–aimed higher than straight A’s. They used their four years to cultivate habits of thought that would enable them to grow and adapt throughout their lives.”  –GoodReads

2. College Girls : Bluestockings, Sex Kittens, and Coeds, Then and Now (2006) by Lynn Peril.

Call Number: Main Stacks – Circulating. LC1756 .P47 2006.

Summary:  “From her first appearance in the mid-nineteenth century, when the age-old conflict over educating women was finally laid to rest, the college girl has attracted criticism, advice, and regulation from her elders–not to mention some enduring images in popular culture.  Is she a geek in glasses? Or a sex kitten in a teddy? This book brings together women’s history and popular culture in a readable blend of information, insight and humor, peppered with photographs and other femoribilia from the turn of the twentieth century through the 1970s.” –From publisher description.

3. My Freshman Year : What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student (2005) by Rebekah Nathan

Call Number: Main Stacks – Circulating. LB3605 .N34 2005

Summary:  “After fifteen years of teaching, Rebekah Nathan, a professor of Anthropology at a large state university, realized she no longer understood the behavior and attitudes of her students. Nathan decided to put her experience in ethnographic fieldwork to use [so] she took a sabbatical and enrolled as a freshman for the academic year.  She immersed herself in student life, moving into the dorms and taking on a full course load.  She ate in the cafeteria, joined clubs, and played regular pick-up games of volleyball and tag football.  Based on her interviews and conversations with fellow classmates, her interactions with professors and with other university employees and offices, and her careful day-to-day observations, My Freshman Year provides an account of college life that should be read by students, parents, professors, university administrators, and anyone else concerned about the state of higher education in America today.”  –Book jacket.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,370 other followers