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Perfectly Awful: The Philadelphia 76ers' Horrendous and Hilarious 1972-1973 Season.

Rosen, Charley (author).
Oct. 2014. 201p. Univ. of Nebraska, hardcover, $24.95 (9780803248625). 796.323.
REVIEW. First published October 15, 2014 (Booklist).

In the pantheon of bad sports teams, the 1972–73 Philadelphia 76ers are enshrined with baseball’s 1962 New York Mets, who won just 40 of 160 games. Just six seasons earlier, the 76ers, led by Wilt Chamberlain, were NBA champs. Hall of Fame guard Hal Greer was the only player left from that team by ’72, leaving a roster made up of a lethal combination of over-the-hill veterans and questionably talented youngsters. More problematic was the coach, Roy Rubin, who lacked exposure to the pro game and was inexperienced in coaching grown men. Half the players hated him, and the other half didn’t like him. The team’s failings make a great subject for Rosen, who knows basketball from the inside as a player and professional coach. He understands the subtleties of the locker room, and, in this tale of laughable woe, he nails the fractured team dynamic through first-person interviews with the players, coaches, and writers who covered the team. The literature of sport usually focuses on championship teams and players. But the road to the top is littered with vanquished foes. The ‘72–’73 76ers are the ultimate vanquished foe. Great reading.

— Wes Lukowsky

School Library Journal

Classroom Management Tricks: Timers and a tool to control noise | Cool Tools
As every teacher knows, good classroom management can make the difference between a great class experience and a poor one. While technology doesn’t replace the need for a solid approach to classroom management, tech tools, including these, can certainly help.

SLJTeen Chats with Jim Ziolkowski, Founder of buildON Nonprofit
A trip to Malawi, Africa in 1992 convinced GE executive Jim Ziolkowski that he had a different calling—giving students the opportunity to transform their lives through access to education.

Superintendent of the Year Mark Edwards’s Top Leadership Book Picks | SLJ Summit 2014
Keynoter Mark Edwards provided a booklist of titles that influenced his leadership—and could influence yours—at the SLJ Leadership Summit in St. Paul, MN, on October 25–26.

Library Journal

Geology, October 2014 | Best Sellers
February 2014 to date as identified by YBP Library Services

Spotlight on Garth Stein | LibraryReads Authors
In A Sudden Light, Garth Stein’s first novel after his momentous best seller, The Art of Racing in the Rain, 14-year-old Trevor travels with his father, Jones Riddell, to the imposing family mansion on Puget Sound.

Sculptor Calder, Voices of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Christie’s Poirot, the Latest Fast Scans | Video Reviews
An introduction to one of America’s most important modern artists, whose influential body of work is so often reduced to only his mobiles; a vision of the “very complex historical narrative” that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kirkus Reviews

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A domestic drama is a prism illuminating the often conflicting cultural and social temperaments of contemporary Africa.

Set primarily in Nairobi, this 12th novel by Somali-born Farah (Crossbones, 2011, etc.) sifts through the personal and emotional fallout of a terrorist attack in Mogadishu that kills a U.N. official who emigrated from his native Somalia decades before. His grief-stricken sister Bella, a model-turned–professional photographer, decides to leave behind her own expatriate life in Europe and resettle in Kenya, where she will honor her brother’s wishes by caring for his teenage son, Salif, and daughter, Dahaba. Saying the least, this arrangement does not please their brash, self-centered mother, Valerie, who arrives in Nairobi with her lesbian lover, Padmini, to stake her claim upon the children, who prefer their more worldly and levelheaded aunt as a legal guardian. With delicacy and compassion, Farah, whose own sister was killed earlier this year in a terrorist bombing while working for UNICEF, fashions a domestic chamber piece where motives, yearnings and regrets intersect among these complex, volatile personalities against a wider backdrop of religious and cultural conflict, social and political upheaval, and even “family values” in post-millennial Africa. Even the most offhand conversations Bella and the other major characters have with Nairobi citizens of varied ages and genders throw unexpected and necessary light upon aspects of a society that the rest of the world knows, or cares, relatively little about. (It’s a solid bet that most readers outside Africa aren’t aware of Kenyans’ bigotry toward the Somalis choosing to live in their country.) Throughout this novel’s big and small incidents, Farah maintains a narrative composure that shuns typecasting, reserves judgment and keeps his readers alert to whatever hidden graces emerge from even the most difficult characters. 

An unassuming triumph of straightforward, topical storytelling that both adds to and augments a body of work worthy of a Nobel Prize.

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A vivid portrayal of the disappointed young adults in Elephant Beach, a fading East Coast seaside town, in 1972. Beware the seductive lure of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

The world-weary proprietor of a local hangout tells Katie, the 18-year-old narrator of this affecting debut short story collection, “You’re different than the other kids around here. You want my advice? Get out of Dodge. Now.” But in the summer after her high school graduation, there is some life lesson that Katie needs to learn from this on-the-skids town and her colorful, chain-smoking friends. Everyone around her is trying to escape the challenging circumstances that surround them in this working-class community. The women’s dreams are quickly crushed in evanescent sexual affairs, which end in abandonment, arguments, abortions or just male indifference; the men they get involved with are too troubled or immature or stoned to be dependable partners. The rest of the country, roiling from the Vietnam War, seems distant, as does nearby Manhattan. Katie’s friends are both contemptuous and jealous of the occasional hippie or privileged student who drifts by. Mitch, who lost a leg in Vietnam and is drinking himself to death, is the poster boy for those unable to withstand the vicissitudes of life. Katie, who comes from a more affluent family but works at an A&P, is obsessed with Luke, an elusive, recently returned vet; she is also grappling with her own adoption. What makes the desperation that abounds compelling is Chicurel’s perfect pitch for the characters’ patter, which is blunt, cynical, often profane and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.

Will Katie get her man? Will she make a break from this hard-luck population? The author’s masterful writing makes this short stay in Elephant Beach worthwhile.

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Comparative religions expert Armstrong (Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, 2010, etc.) provides a comprehensive and erudite study of the history of violence in relation to religion.

The author’s global perspective is epic in scale and begins with the very dawn of human history. She begins the book by asserting, “[m]odern society has made a scapegoat of faith,” and she ends by noting that the “problem lies not in the multifaceted activity that we call ‘religion’ but in the violence embedded in our human nature and the nature of the state.” Armstrong also takes pains to explain that religion, as it is defined and discussed in modern society, is a construct of Protestant-influenced, Western culture and would not be understood by most cultures through time. Instead of a personal choice, religion has long been an ingrained aspect of most cultures, subject to the needs of societal survival along with every other aspect of a culture. Armstrong sees agrarian society as the source of most violence through history, in which a ruling minority controlled an agrarian majority by force while also attempting to expand territory. Religion served as a way of comprehending and handling the violence inherent in such societies. The rise of secularism—which, as the French Revolution handily proved, could be quite violent in its own right—created a void in which religion, and especially fundamentalism, could arise in a juxtaposing, visible role. This new role for religion has brought about the “religious violence” of modernity, whether it was Jonestown’s “revolutionary suicide” or the spread of Islamic fanaticism. Armstrong leads readers patiently through history, from Mesopotamia to ancient India to the Palestine of Jesus to the China of Confucius. As always, her writing is clear and descriptive, her approach balanced and scholarly.

An intriguing read, useful resource and definitive voice in defense of the divine in human culture.

<October 2014>