As 2013 draws to a close, there are a lot of books, films and other cultural enrichment that you may have missed. Whether you're looking for an album you had heard good things about, but can't remember the name, or you're trying to find a good book to give as a gift, sometimes a good recommendation can go a long way when sifting through 12 months of cultural produce.
Thankfully, Carroll County's librarians, musicians and educators have your back. Here are their favorite selections of 2013:
"The Paris Architect," by Charles Belfoure: Recommended by Christina Kuntz, Westminster Branch Manager. "Nazi-occupied Paris, an edge-of-your-seat story of an architect charged with creating undetectable hiding places for the hunted. Written by Westminster's own Charles Belfoure."
"The Goldfinch," by Donna Tartt: Recommended by JoAnna Crone, communications coordinator for the Carroll Arts Council. "A 13-year-old boy, Theo, survives a terrorist attack on the Metropolitan Museum of Art and 'accidentally' runs away with a famous Dutch painting ... In a weird coincidence the book was released the same day the Frick Collection in New York opened an exhibition that includes the actual painting, a 1654 masterpiece by Carel Fabritius."
"Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library," by Chris Grabenstein: Recommended by Darrell Robertson, Finksburg Branch Children's Services Supervisor. "Can 12 12-year-olds escape from the most ridiculously brilliant library ever created? And can you figure out all the clues and puzzles in this extremely clever and hysterically funny new mystery?"
"An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth," by Col. Chris Hadfield: Recommended by National Aerospace Institute educator in residence at McDaniel College, Sharon Wensel Bowers. "Hadfield is a Canadian astronaut who also sings and there are Youtube videos of him singing David Bowie's 'Space Oddity' in space. It's his perspective on life as a result of having been on the International Space Station and looking back on earth."
"Life After Life," by Kate Atkinson: Recommended by Kathy Mangan, professor of English at McDaniel College. "Book of the year. The time frame moves around and the woman lives several different lives. I thought it sounded like science fiction, but it's not. It's really a magical handling of the question of 'what if? What if this had happened instead of that? There are many different turning points where, and I'm not giving anything away, she dies ... but then she doesn't die. She lives and then she dies again."
"20/20 Experience," by Justin Timberlake: Recommended by Eric Byrd of the Eric Byrd Trio. "Hard not to like this kid; strong vocals throughout with very smart, sensible approaches to melody. The hits off the record aren't the strongest tracks. Some songs like "Pusher love girl" are straight Stevie Wonder, showing his influences. All the tracks are singable, not stupidly graphic, musically hip and bow to R&B and pop. Plus, he can actually sing.
"I am Mountain," by Gungor: Recommended by Jeremy Willet, lead singer of the Westminster based Willet. "I have been a huge fan of Gungor ... over the past few years because of their intention of stretching outside of the box that 'Christian music' can often times place artists in. I had the opportunity to see Gungor live in concert in Nashville a few years ago, and it was one of the best live shows I've ever seen, and interestingly enough, the most worshipful."
"Out Here," by Christian McBride Trio: Recommended by Eric Byrd. "Wow. Just, wow. Best jazz piano trio record in a long time, and I even put a record out this year. The CD that makes me and everyone else want to retire. Every song - and I mean every track - is a stand alone ... so good I can't listen to but so often as I'll spiral into self doubt and depression."
"This is...Icona Pop," by Icona Pop: Recommended by Anita Mowery, Finksburg Branch Circulation Supervisor. "I went to go see Marina and the Diamonds at the end of last year and was very surprised at how much I enjoyed their opening band, Icona Pop ... It's just upbeat, fun music that will get you dancing in your car - or around the house.
Film and Theater
"Oz: The Great and Powerful": Recommended by Lisa Picker, Public Relations and Marketing Manager. "Having been traumatized by the flying monkeys as a child, I was a little leery of this telling, but Franco and company quickly persuaded me. This is truly a new family classic."
"Dallas Buyer's Club," and "12 Years a Slave": Recommended by Jonathan Slade, associate professor of communication and cinema at McDaniel College. "So many of these films are filled with the subtext of dysfunctional institutions and the failure of infrastructure ... that I can't help but feel this year we're seeing a reaction to our own federal gridlock. On the other hand, these films also seem to be celebrating the resilience of the individual, and that almost always makes for compelling cinema."
"Gravity": Recommended by Bill Gillett, chairman for performing arts at Carroll Community College. "Gravity I thought was just such a gripping movie. I was left feeling that there is an action story that was so exciting to be a part of and left me wanting so much more ... it's a movie that reminds me why I like movies so much."
Everyman Theater, Baltimore: Recommended by Elizabeth van den Berg, chairwoman of the Theater Arts Department at McDaniel College. "They were operating out of a church basement, but they recently got their own new theater space. I've only seen 'God of Carnage' by Yasmina Reza, but it was a terrific production ... They have a food truck that will park out front and they will serve you dinner in the lobby before the show and they have a full service bar inside."