Archive for the ‘EBRPL Book’ Category


Book Review: Good Prose

April 16, 2014

Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction by Tracy Kidder & Richard Todd. Reviewed by Louise Hilton. 

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder and his longtime editor and friend Richard Todd offer advice on writing nonfiction in this elegant little book. Letting us know right from the start how fervently they believe in the “power of story and character,” the authors affirm that “the techniques of fiction never belonged exclusively to fiction,” indeed, “no techniques of storytelling are prohibited to the nonfiction writer, only the attempt to pass off inventions as facts.”

Kidder and Todd are formidable talents but present their advice in an accessible and encouraging way. Drawing on their long careers in the field, they urge aspiring writers to believe in the intelligence of the reader and to focus, above all, on the human side of the story: “We think that every piece of writing – whether story or argument or rumination, book or essay or letter home – requires the freshness and precision that convey a distinct human presence.”

Good Prose is the culmination of Kidder and Todd’s decades-long friendship and experience in publishing. The result? Excellent prose. It belongs on every writer’s shelf alongside Strunk & White’s Elements of Style and Stephen King’s On Writing.

*An edited version of this review appeared in The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.).


Book Review: Empty Mansions

March 31, 2014

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. Reviewed by Louise Hilton.


Empty Mansions is the intriguing story of the making of one of the greatest American fortunes, that of mining magnate William Andrews (W. A.) Clark, and the peculiar life of his youngest daughter Huguette. Clark was a self-made man in the grand tradition of the American dream: he went from a log cabin in Pennsylvania to the halls of Congress, amassing a personal fortune in mining (not to mention acquiring an entire railroad and selling the plots of land that would become Las Vegas along the way) to rival that of Rockefeller and the other leading industrialists of the day. Clark remains one of the 50 richest Americans of all time. His reputation eventually marred by accusations of corruption – elected to the U. S. Senate in 1899, Clark lost his seat as a result of voter bribery allegations, only to be reelected the following year and serving a single term starting in 1901 – his name is all but forgotten today, even though his election scandal helped lead to the passage of the 17th Amendment that established direct election of senators.

W. A. Clark spared no expense in building a sumptuous lifestyle for himself and his family, building sprawling estates all over the country (most of which remained empty yet fully staffed for decades in the 20th century, due to Huguette’s reclusive lifestyle, hence the book’s title). Clark instilled a love and appreciation of fine arts in his children, and Huguette remained a lifelong patroness of the arts and an avid collector of Japanese art and dolls in particular. Huguette, born in Paris to Clark and his French second wife, also kept her father’s affinity for all things French.

The crux of Empty Mansions is Huguette’s story. An artistic and loving young woman who married once, briefly, but then withdrew from society upon the deaths of her closest family members, she spent the rest of her adulthood in seclusion, communicating with the outside world via letters, telegrams, and phone calls, her life taking on an almost “Grey Gardens” aspect. Perhaps most shocking of all was her voluntary move to a series of New York City hospitals, where she spent the last 20+ years of her life. Was she preyed upon by her nurses and doctors? Were her lawyers and bankers honest in their handling of her immense fortune? Was Huguette developmentally delayed which would help in explaining some of her childlike behavior?

Authors Dedman and Newell (the latter a distant relation of Huguette’s) draw on impeccable research to present a fascinating behind-the-scenes look into one of the most prominent American families of all time. W. A. Clark’s ascent is a prime example of American can do-ism but also a cautionary tale against the pull of power and greed and what is perhaps best described as obscene wealth. More than that though, Empty Mansions introduces readers to the complex and touching story of the reclusive heiress Huguette Clark.


French Book Club

March 14, 2014

We’re starting a new book club here at the new Main Library at Goodwood with a twist: it’s en français! We’re partnering with a local French interest group called Francopportunités that is dedicated to promoting French language and culture in Baton Rouge. Join us next Thursday, March 20, at the Main Library at 7:00 p.m. as we kick off our new French club with a discussion of the classic Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Our unofficial slogan for the club is “Less Sartre, more fun!” Future dates and titles are: le-petit-prince

Thursday, April 24 – La délicatesse de David Foenkinos

Thursday, May 29 – L’élégance du hérisson de Muriel Barbery

Thursday, June 19 – Et si c’était vrai de Marc Levy

Thursday, July 17 – Bonjour tristesse de Françoise Sagan

Thursday, August 28 – Entre les murs de François Bégaudeau

September 25 – L’étudiant étranger de Philippe Labro

October 23 – Les Âmes grises de Philippe Claudel

November 6 – Stupeur et tremblements d’Amélie Nothomb

December 4 – Un secret de Philippe Grimbert

All meetings are scheduled for 7:00 p.m at Main in Conference Room A. Visit our online calendar or call (225) 231-3750 for up-to-date information on book choices.



Academy Awards

February 26, 2014

by Louise Hilton

oscars-march 2

It’s that time of year again! The 86th Academy Awards ceremony airs this Sunday, March 2, at 6 p.m. Check out the official website for all things Oscar: recipe ideas for your very own Oscar viewing party, behind-the-scenes videos, red carpet galleries, an Oscar app for your smartphone, and more.

Click here for a printable list of the nominees or try this interactive Oscar ballot from CNN.

Don’t miss the official site of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (the governing body behind the awards) for the history behind Hollywood’s most legendary night.

All of this year’s nine Best Picture nominees are available in our catalog (or will be available shortly): American HustleCaptain PhillipsDallas Buyers Club, GravityHerNebraska, Philomena12 Years a Slave, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

The Library also offers a great selection of titles about the Academy Awards, including the newly updated 85 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards by Robert Osborne, Bringing Up Oscar: The Story of the Men and Women Who Founded the Academy by Debra Ann Pawlak, Oscar Fever: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards by Emanuel Levy, Made for Each Other: Fashion and the Academy Awards by Bronwyn Cosgrave, and Behind the Oscar: The Secret History of the Academy Awards by Anthony Holden.

For fun fictional takes on the frenzy of Oscar season, try Best Murder of the Year by Jon P. Bloch,  Murder at the Academy Awards by Joan Rivers, Oscar Season by Mary McNamara, and Celebutantes by Amanda Goldberg.

Don’t forget to tune in Sunday night!


Harry Potter Book Club

February 21, 2014


The River Center Branch Library is hosting a Harry Potter book club this year. This six-part series kicks off this Wednesday, February 26, at 5:30 p.m. with a discussion of the first two books in J. K. Rowling’s magical series: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

We’re also planning fun Harry Potter-themed crafts to go along with each meeting. For more information, call (225) 389-4967. Muggles welcome!

All meetings are at 5:30 p.m. The schedule for the upcoming months is:

Wednesday, March 26: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3)

Wednesday, April 23: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4)

Wednesday, May 28:Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5)

Wednesday, June 25:Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)

Thursday, July 31: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)  **This meeting is on Thursday instead of our regular Wednesday to celebrate Harry’s birthday on July 31st. Costumes encouraged.


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