2014 Book, Music and Film Discoveries from OCLC Research Staff

#wtworldcat #happyholidays

As 2014 comes to an end, we thought it would be fun to reflect back on the books, movies and music we discovered throughout the year that we really liked. We hope this unique assortment of recommendations will pique your interest and spread a little holiday cheer.

All of us in OCLC Research wish you the happiest of holidays and a wonderful new year!

This was another one where I had trouble with my suspension of disbelief -- would he or she really do this or that? In the end I didn't care, and enjoyed this story set in San Francisco and based on the Victorian practice of using flower arrangements to convey a message.
Merrilee Proffitt
Senior Program Officer
We rewatched this recently, saddened by the news that Mario Peña - who is so good in it - had died. The Sunshine State is my favorite John Sayles' film, and this shares that same wonderful multi-threaded ensemble approach.
Lorcan Dempsey
Vice President and Chief Strategist
I rediscovered this old favorite again this year, before a first-ever trip to Ireland. I read it in part to get accustomed to the voices I might hear while there.
Bruce Washburn
Software Engineer
A lyrical dystopian novel. Told in the first person. Echoes of Robinson Crusoe, A Boy and His Dog (movie and short story), and The Little Prince (a primitive airplane features in the narrative). Plus it has Jasper (the dog of the title). First line: "I keep the Beast running." Go from there.
Jim Michalko
Vice President, OCLC Research Library Partnership
This movie is not perfect and there are sections where both the plot violated my sense of human nature and scientific validity but overall the movie is well executed with some knock your socks off effects. And the story was good enough that I was actually stressed out while I was watching it. After seeing this, and Gravity (another, more believable flick, as least in terms of science) I've decided that I am not cut out for space travel. But while I'm here on Earth I'd like to see a few more movies like this one.
Merrilee Proffitt
Senior Program Officer
Okay, so honestly, I wasn't thrilled by this movie. But it is clearly a generational thing. My adult sons were thrilled by the movie and can't believe I'm not just as excited. Clearly the movie makers brought to life the Legos my boys had grown up with. I'm sure I'd have been more excited if it had been The Lincoln Log Movie.
Ralph LeVan
Senior Research Scientist
This is from the author of the XKCD comic blog. I love it dipping it to. The book contains answers to crazy and absurd "What If" questions posted to his blog. Seriously, I think Randall Munroe is the best info viz practitioner around today.
JD Shipengrover
Information Architect
In this well-told tale, Alice Kober, who enabled the decipherment of Linear B, an Aegean Bronze Age script and the earliest known Greek writing, is finally acknowledged for the work she performed before her untimely and still somewhat mysterious death. The story weaves the reader through jealousy, rivalry, abiding friendships and implacable enemies on its way to a triumphant conclusion.
Roy Tennant
Senior Program Officer
A wrenching story about love and loss, but between parents and children, not between lovers. The book jumps back and forth between Providence, Rhode Island and India, and the descriptions were so vivid I could feel the temperature change, taste the food, feel the pain. You'll need some tissues.
Merrilee Proffitt
Senior Program Officer
It's true. I'm obsessed. But others are too. Check out the Serial coverage (including a Series Spoiler podcast) on Slate. There's also a whole Reddit thread but I'm not going there and if you do, please don't tell me about it.
Merrilee Proffitt
Senior Program Officer
Rex Ray is an artist I have admired for years. This is not a new book, but I discovered it this year. When I'm creatively discouraged or stuck on a project, flipping through this book always helps me lighten my mood and gives me inspiration.
JD Shipengrover
Information Architect
Like Ricky, I haven't finished it yet, but I'm entranced. Usually I fall asleep reading in bed after about 15 minutes, but reading this book, I last at least an hour! I adored Tartt's first two books (The Secret History and The Little Friend), and this one is on par or better. She gets inside the head of her protagonist at a deep level, draws all her characters beautifully, and creates a world that I don't want to leave.
Jackie Dooley
Program Officer
Thought-provoking book about a Bay Area tech giant. Think Google on steroids -- it explores work culture, potential for good, and the possibility of being evil. Encompasses healthcare, democracy, history, security, privacy, social media, oversharing, and the always-on world we live in.
Ricky Erway
Senior Program Officer
This is not recent book, but it cropped up in my list of Amazon Kindle recommendations in the past year and I have enjoyed it very much, often re-reading passages while I'm on the road for work (the only time available for reading...). North's writing is wonderfully lucid -- I first read his (1990) book on institutional change a year or two ago, and it has had a profound effect on the way I think about how organizational and societal change.
Constance Malpas
Research Scientist
This children's Christmas book communicates poignantly the separation and the connection between a mother and child who have grown up in different cultures.
Lorcan Dempsey
Vice President and Chief Strategist
The subtitle is "the remarkable story of the telegraph and the 19th century's remarkable pioneers." The book details the evolution of the telegraph in its many crazy, fascinating phases, including the initially failed attempt to lay the transatlantic cable. It snapped. They thought hard about what might have gone wrong and then laid it again. Absolutely fascinating--and the parallels with the Internet aren't far-fetched.
Jackie Dooley
Program Officer
My musical tastes are outlandishly old-fashioned. My most recent purchase (in 2014) was an album by the Turkish popstar Tarkan. He had a catchy 'top of the pops' single when I was living in France years ago. I was happy to find a 2010 album that is full of the same sunny, hypnotic sounds. In a year when media coverage of the middle east has been so grindingly bleak, I have been glad to envision club kids gyrating to this unapologetically upbeat music.
Constance Malpas
Research Scientist
I was fascinated with this intimate portrait of a boy over the 12 years during which the movie was filmed. Good story, great acting, and the premise won't often be repeated!
Ricky Erway
Senior Program Officer
I usually treat non-fiction like a medicine -- something I have to take now and again. But this is an amazing piece of storytelling, about real people, and about the amazing story of cancer cells collected from a black woman in Baltimore in 1951. It's also a disturbing story that takes up issues around ethics and informed consent, alongside race and class.
Merrilee Proffitt
Senior Program Officer
Reading this was my way of coping with the current and epic California Drought. Our hardships aren't quite at Dust Bowl level, yet. That is, we're being asked to not water our lawns so much, whereas their small and desperate plots of root vegetables to feed the family were killed by static electricity, and hopeful clouds on the horizon turned out to be locusts.
Bruce Washburn
Software Engineer
Didn't have much time for recreational reading this year because I was buried in my own writing tasks. But I scarfed this thing down in a single sitting one day when my workstation was crippled with malware and adware. What I wonder: if there's Big Money to be made in malware, isn't there even Bigger Money to be made in conquering it?
Jean Godby
Senior Research Scientist
I had not heard of this Brooklyn-based group until we heard them play on a fine Sunday morning in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Others may be able to position their sound as being just like some other band but they seem original to me. They make me think of a mix of The Band and The Wailin' Jennys.
Bruce Washburn
Software Engineer
Much of my reading attention in 2014 went to this sprawling epic fantasy series, of course buttressed by its retelling on the small screen. By volume 6 I had given up wondering when he will finally let the White Walkers and Dragons do some real mayhem.
Roy Tennant
Senior Program Officer
Published to mark Boland's seventieth birthday this volume brings together the poet's photographs of Dublin and a selection of her poems. Boland is read for many reasons. I like that she writes about the suburban Dublin I grew up in, between the mountains, sea and river.
Lorcan Dempsey
Vice President and Chief Strategist
A 1985 film that I have only just watched this past year. The elderly Alice Liddell (she who inspired the Wonderland Alice) travels to the United States from England to receive an honorary degree from Columbia University celebrating the centenary of Lewis Carroll's birth. It's a wonderful story of memory, imagination, shifting realities and aging. And because it is nearly 30 years old it is a civilized 94 minutes long.
Jim Michalko
Vice President, OCLC Research Library Partnership
Though he was born in the Czech Republic, made his mark in Canada and now lives in New York, the saxophonist, clarinetist and banjoist Petr Cancura has a feeling for the rural American South (per the New York Times). It's very fun to hear the roots of jazz filtered through the sensibilities that Cancura brings. You'll recognize things and hear them for the first time (per me).
Jim Michalko
Vice President, OCLC Research Library Partnership
Isn't everyone else already consumed by Serial? The media sensation of 2014. Its current following made me think of the subculture around "the footage" in William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition" (which is also great). Hat tip: Merrilee
Bruce Washburn
Software Engineer
A sweeping narrative, splendidly told, following Theo Decker from a pivotal moment in childhood through early adulthood and [I have to confess I haven't finished yet - it's 775 pages!]. Wonderful character development. Beautiful sense of place. Compelling, intimate story.
Ricky Erway
Senior Program Officer
The hook is that spaceships are Artificial Intelligences and they have hundreds of human bodies wired into them to act as remote tools. The humans have some minimal self awareness but are mostly just aware of being part of the ship together. One such ship and all but one of its crew is destroyed. How such a society came to be and what happens to that human are part of a great story.
Ralph LeVan
Senior Research Scientist
I have a weakness for Pride and Prejudice and enjoyed P.D. James' Death Comes to Pemberly, a few years back. So another opportunity to follow the Bennets and the Bingleys and Mr. Darcy through the eyes of the servants was much welcome. But the book turned out to be more than that, and took me into details of 18th century warfare and housekeeping practices.
Merrilee Proffitt
Senior Program Officer
Not from 2014. From IMDB: "Set in the near future, an ex-jewel thief receives a gift from his son: a robot butler programmed to look after him. But soon the two companions try their luck as a heist team." A good part of the action takes place in the local library.
Diane Vizine-Goetz
Senior Research Scientist
Another movie I didn't see in favor of reading the book. I was hooked by Hazel and Gus's plight but in the end enjoyed the dark humor that went alongside the tears. A Young Adult book that adults should read.
Merrilee Proffitt
Senior Program Officer
When I travel to conferences, I enjoy reading fiction that is 'of' the place I am visiting. On the outbound leg of a trip to Japan this year, I read the classic bildungsroman Sanshiro (by Natsume Sosecki) which provided a wonderful view of university life in Tokyo in the Meiji period. For my return home, I wanted to read something that had a more contemporary feel. Villain certainly delivered -- a gritty, grim, refreshingly unsentimental account of life (and death) in the provinces.
Constance Malpas
Research Scientist
I've been obsessively watching this series since it hit Netflix. It is a clever reboot of my favorite mystery solving group of fashion challenged teens. It has lots of in-jokes and plenty of new ones too. I think I’ve watched all the episodes at least twice. Great little break from reality. (OK, I think I’ve over shared.)
JD Shipengrover
Information Architect
I somehow missed this in the theater but I did read the book this year -- an amazing first person narrative. I learned more than I wanted to know about America's "peculiar institution" as well as more than I ever thought there was to know about cotton and corn production. And since the work is out of copyright you can download it outright.
Merrilee Proffitt
Senior Program Officer
Disc.World. Enough said.
JD Shipengrover
Information Architect
I have been listening to Beck since I was a young kid. I loved his wacky lyrics and ever-changing musical style. What is interesting about this album is that is much more ‘traditional’ but equally as powerful as his early off-the-wall stuff. The melancholy tone takes you on a fantastic journey of highs and lows and leaves you pleasantly entertained at the end.
Jeff Mixter
Research Support Specialist
This is a terrific companion volume to the Stanford University Art Museum exposition earlier this year. Carleton Watkins has been a favorite of mine since forever and this Stanford University Press publication is outstanding. Among the many fascinating short essays included is one by John Mustain, Curator of Rare Books at the Stanford Library, describing how these photographs came to be held by the Library and how the Library has cared for them since.
Bruce Washburn
Software Engineer
A recent Christmas album from 'bedsit disco queen' Tracey Thorn - understated, insistently memorable, grown up.
Lorcan Dempsey
Vice President and Chief Strategist