What I Got in My First Book Bundle

Book bundles. This fairly new concept first appeared in my search history at the beginning of summer when I began researching libraries here in Pennsylvania. I didn’t think anything of it again until last week when I saw that the public library in Lititz, Pennsylvania offered them. As a result, I had to look and see if the library I frequent the most offered the same and behold: they do!

Have you ever wandered a bookstore or library, glanced at the same titles over and over, or always found yourself in the same section – yet again – when you promised yourself you’d branch out a bit? That describes my book browsing habits in a nutshell. Granted, sometimes it’s fun not knowing what you’re going to end up with. Sometimes, well, I just want my comfort zone.

However, it’s that very same comfort zone that has caused me to lose interest in reading as of late. So without any hesitation at all I signed up to receive my first ever Book Bundle from Northland Public Library. I don’t think you can do any sort of inter-library requests or anything like that. But they do offer all forms of media and books, so you’re really not limited on what kinds of things you can have in your Bundle. What’s the most hilarious thing about this particular stack I got? I’ve already read one of them!

Let’s take a look at what I got in my first ever Book Bundle from the library.


by Mark Whitaker

The other great Renaissance of black culture, influence, and glamour burst forth joyfully in what may seem an unlikely place—Pittsburgh, PA—from the 1920s through the 1950s.

Today black Pittsburgh is known as the setting for August Wilson’s famed plays about noble but doomed working-class strivers. But this community once had an impact on American history that rivaled the far larger black worlds of Harlem and Chicago. It published the most widely read black newspaper in the country, urging black voters to switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party and then rallying black support for World War II. It fielded two of the greatest baseball teams of the Negro Leagues and introduced Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Pittsburgh was the childhood home of jazz pioneers Billy Strayhorn, Billy Eckstine, Earl Hines, Mary Lou Williams, and Erroll Garner; Hall of Fame slugger Josh Gibson—and August Wilson himself. Some of the most glittering figures of the era were changed forever by the time they spent in the city, from Joe Louis and Satchel Paige to Duke Ellington and Lena Horne.

Mark Whitaker’s Smoketown is a captivating portrait of this unsung community and a vital addition to the story of black America. It depicts how ambitious Southern migrants were drawn to a steel-making city on a strategic river junction; how they were shaped by its schools and a spirit of commerce with roots in the Gilded Age; and how their world was eventually destroyed by industrial decline and urban renewal. Whitaker takes readers on a rousing, revelatory journey—and offers a timely reminder that Black History is not all bleak.

Out of This Furnace

by Thomas Bell

Out of This Furnace is Thomas Bell’s most compelling achievement.  Its story of three generations of an immigrant Slovak family — the Dobrejcaks — still stands as a fresh and extraordinary accomplishment.

The novel begins in the mid-1880s with the naive blundering career of Djuro Kracha. It tracks his arrival from the old country as he walked from New York to White Haven, his later migration to the steel mills of Braddock, Pennsylvania, and his eventual downfall through foolish financial speculations and an extramarital affair. The second generation is represented by Kracha’s daughter, Mary, who married Mike Dobrejcak, a steel worker. Their decent lives, made desperate by the inhuman working conditions of the mills, were held together by the warm bonds of their family life, and Mike’s political idealism set an example for the children. Dobie Dobrejcak, the third generation, came of age in the 1920s determined not to be sacrificed to the mills. His involvement in the successful unionization of the steel industry climaxed a half-century struggle to establish economic justice for the workers.

Out of This Furnace is a document of ethnic heritage and of a violent and cruel period in our history, but it is also a superb story. The writing is strong and forthright, and the novel builds constantly to its triumphantly human conclusion.

The Secret Life of Plants

by Peter Tompkins

In this truly revolutionary and beloved work, drawn from remarkable research, Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird cast light on the rich psychic universe of plants. Now available in a new edition, The Secret Life of Plants explores plants’ response to human care and nurturing, their ability to communicate with man, plants’ surprising reaction to music, their lie-detection abilities, their creative powers, and much more. Tompkins and Bird’s classic book affirms the depth of humanity’s relationship with nature and adds special urgency to the cause of protecting the environment that nourishes us.

Poison Study

by Maria V. Snyder

Choose: A quick death…or slow poison. About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace, and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear.

Strangers on a Train

by Patricia Highsmith

In Patricia Highsmith’s debut novel, we encounter Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno, passengers on the same train. But while Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce, Bruno turns out to be a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him. As Bruno carries out his twisted plan, Guy is trapped in Highsmith’s perilous world – where, under the right circumstances, anybody is capable of murder.

The inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1951 film, Strangers on a Train launched Highsmith on a prolific career of noir fiction and proved her mastery of depicting the unsettling forces that tremble beneath the surface of everyday contemporary life.

With this very interesting pool of books choose from, I think on my next day off I am going to start with POISON STUDY by Maria Snyder. In all irony of ironies, I checked out OUT OF THIS FURNACE years ago during the early research phase for one of my old works in progress but never got around to reading it. That might have to be next on deck after POISON STUDY.

What I do appreciate with this Book Bundle is that whomever chose the titles for me did, indeed, follow the suggestions I’d put in my request form. There are loads more books out there that have never been in my home, and I look forward to seeing what’s slipped in to my next library Book Bundle!

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Budding #historian. Writer of #adventures and #sciencefantasy. Lover of mushrooms and libraries. Fan of #chocolate, #books and Pennsylvania history.

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