Common Grounds book group gathered on a snowy Saturday to wander the halls of Tobias Wolff’s debut novel, Old School. Christa and Michael both liked the selection and wished more readers had braved the weather to discuss it.

From astronauts to engineers and other space pioneers, these ten biographies help tell the story of the Space Race.

The Right Stuff
By Tom Wolfe
The first Americans in space--Yeager, Conrad, Grissom, and Glenn--battle the Russians for control of the heavens and put their lives on the line to demonstrate a quality beyond courage, in this classic by Wolfe.

Promised the Moon: The Untold Story of the First Women in the Space Race
By Stephanie Nolen
A female world-record-setting pilot, Jerrie Cobb was recruited in 1959 to take the astronaut tests. She excelled, so the doctor who supervised the selection of NASA's Mercury astronauts recruited additional female pilots. Twelve performed exceptionally. Stephanie Nolen tracked down eleven of the surviving "Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainees" and learned the story of those early days of the space race and the disappointment when, in 1961, the women were grounded.

Are you working 24/7 because you can’t unplug from your mobile phone or the Internet? Technology has blurred the lines between work and home, affecting everything from how we use our time to how we relate to one another. These books examine technology’s impact on our society, culture, and economy.

Elsewhere, U.S.A.: How We Got from the Company Man, Family Dinners, and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, BlackBerry Moms, and Economic Anxiety
By Dalton Conley
The division between work and home has been all but demolished, replaced by a weightless, wireless economy that encourages work at the expense of leisure. Conley, a preeminent social scientist, provides an X-ray view of the nation's new social reality.

In this current school year, more than 6,200 Teach for America corps members are teaching in America's neediest communities, reaching approximately 400,000 students. These books discuss the Teach for America experience and model or examine urban education in general.

Teach for America | Urban education

Teach for America

One Day, All Children: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach For America and What I Learned Along the Way
By Wendy Kopp
Not just a personal memoir, this is a blueprint for a new civil rights movement that demands educational access and opportunity for all American children.

I imagine this book award slipped by you: the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. Sponsored by The Bookseller magazine, anyone can nominate a book title for this prize and votes by the public are tallied online. It has nothing to do with content and everything to do with, well, title oddity.

The Bookseller recently announced the 2008 winnerThe 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-miligram Containers of Fromage Frais – which beat out Baboon Metaphysics, Strip and Knit with Style, and Curbside Consultation of the Colon, among others.

So, in the spirit of the Diagram Prize, here are a few titles published in 2009 that I thought might be worthy of this illustrious award. Which one would you vote for? Or suggest another title in a comment below!

Nuclear Jellyfish book jacket

Forbidden Bread: A Memoir by Erica Johnson-Debeljak

The novels in these series mix up the genres with a blend of fantasy and mystery.

Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher
Meet Harry Dresden, a professional wizard and investigator with a consulting practice in modern-day Chicago. Dresden’s profession offers him little money, lots of mockery, the suspicion of his magical colleagues, and plenty of danger.

Pick up a book by award-winning author Sandra Cisneros or discover a novel that you might like if you enjoy Cisneros’ work in this recommended book list. Cisneros visits the Library on April 16, 2009, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the publication of her classic The House on Mango Street

Books by Sandra Cisneros
If you like Sandra Cisneros, try one of these novels…

Books by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street book jacket

The House on Mango Street
By Sandra Cisneros
In a series of vignettes stunning for their eloquence, this is the story of Esperanza Cordero, a young girl growing up in the Latino section of Chicago with all its hard realities of life. She captures her thoughts and emotions in poems and stories in order to rise above the hopelessness and create a space for herself.

Amelia Earhart

Get to know the pioneering aviatrix Amelia Earhart in these books about her life and career or pick up a novel centered on her mysterious disappearance.

Biographies | Books by Amelia Earhart | Amelia Earhart in fiction

Biographies

Amelia Earhart: A Biography
By Doris L. Rich
She died mysteriously before she was forty. Yet in the last decade of her life Amelia Earhart soared from obscurity to fame as the best-known female aviator in the world. Rich's exhaustively researched biography downplays the "What Happened to Amelia Earhart?" myth by disclosing who Earhart really was – a woman of three centuries, born in the 19th, pioneering in the 20th, and advocating ideals and dreams relevant to the 21st.

New Orleans, Photo by Jan Kronsell

These ten nonfiction books explore the impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and examine recent concepts in urban planning.

New Orleans | Urban planning

New Orleans

What is a City?: Rethinking the Urban after Hurricane Katrina
Edited by Phil Steinberg and Rob Shields
Dr. Jacob Wagner contributed to this collection of articles that examines the question, “What is a city?” Authors include urban planners, architects, policymakers, and geographers across many disciplines.

Learn all about Sacagawea (sometimes spelled Sacajawea), the Shoshone woman who accompanied Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their famous expedition, or Lewis and Clark in these books at the library.

Sacagawea | Lewis & Clark | The Lewis & Clark Trail

Sacagawea

Veterans and their families write about their experiences with the military, especially in Iraq, in these books at the Library.

Recent military memoirs

Eyes on the Horizon: Serving on the Frontlines of National Security
By General Richard Myers with Malcolm McConnell
General Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2001-2005, sets the record straight about the planning and execution of the Iraq War, and offers new ideas for tightening America's national security.

American Soldier
By Tommy Franks with Malcom McConnell
General Franks retraces his journey from a boyhood in Oklahoma and Texas through his heroic tour of duty as Commander-in-Chief of the United States Central Command.

Check out some of the poetry, prose, and plays written by Langston Hughes, the Missouri-born writer who became a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, or learn more about his life and work in these books at the library.

His work

Selected Poems of Langston Hughes
By Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes's poetry launched a revolution among black writers in America. The poems in this volume were chosen by Hughes shortly before his death in 1967 and encompass work from his entire career.

Modern Dance, Photo by Kevin Eddy

Renowned dancer and choreographer Karole Armitage will talk about her career at the Library in April. Learn more about modern dance and its dancers, watch this dance form on film, or check out a few movies choreographed by Armitage.

Modern dance | Modern dance on film | Movies choreographed by Karole Armitage

Spartacus, a Roman gladiator and slave, led a slave uprising against Rome in 73 B.C. Learn more about his dramatic history or explore the world of gladiators in these books at the library.

Spartacus | Gladiators | Books by Barry Strauss

Spartacus

The Spartacus War (nonfiction)
By Barry Strauss
From an esteemed historian of the ancient world and popular guest on The History Channel comes the true story of the gladiator Spartacus, who led a slave rebellion that rocked and nearly destroyed the Roman Republic.

Spartacus (feature film, 1960)
A gladiator slave leads a revolt in decadent Rome in this film directed by Stanley Kubrick that won four Academy Awards.

Old School

The Libraries of Greater Kansas City have joined The Big Read to celebrate the Tobias Wolff novel Old School through a series of talks and workshops, movie screenings, book groups, a public discussion with Wolff, and a regular radio broadcast. This book is a modern classic about an ambitious but insecure teenager attending an elite prep school in the early 1960s who competes in a writing contest in which the prize is a personal meeting with a visiting famous author – Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, and Ernest Hemingway.

So, go Old School and read this novel, check out a few of the authors featured in this work, pick up a novel with a prep school theme, or read some more work by Tobias Wolff.

The Authors in Old School | Prep School Novels | Books by Tobias Wolff

Related:
Program:  The Big Read in Kansas City, April – May 2009

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