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The Book Blog

profile-icon Andrew Macfarlane---SJR State College

Cover ArtHellfire by Nick Tosches; Greil Marcus (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9780802135667
Publication Date: 1998-04-22
The life of Jerry Lee Lewis is one of the most dramatic and tormented in rock 'n' roll history. Hellfire is a wild, riveting, and beautifully written biography that received universal acclaim on its original publication and remains one of the most remarkable biographies ever written. Born in Louisiana to a family legacy of great courage and greater wildness, Jerry Lee was torn throughout his life between a demanding Pentecostal God and the Devil of alcohol, drugs, and the boogie-woogie piano. At fourteen he began performing publicly, and at twenty-two he recorded "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On", which propelled him to stardom. But almost immediately, news of his marriage to his thirteen-year-old cousin nearly destroyed his career. Over the next twenty years, Jerry Lee would rise again as a country star, and lose it all to his addictions to alcohol, drugs, and his own fame. Hellfire is an audacious, artful look directly into the soul of a rock 'n' roll legend.

On October 28th of last year, 2022, Jerry Lee Lewis passed at the age of 87. I had seen the news and thought to myself about some of the songs for which he had been known. My mind went straight to “Great Balls of Fire.” I knew that Jerry Lee had become famous for it (in 1957), but I had first been exposed to it when the song was performed by Anthony Edwards’ character “Goose” in Top Gun which came out in 1986.  


I also faintly remembered the song “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” which you would hear on regular rotation on the “oldies” radio station in town. Both hit songs are cool, but when you’re younger and you hear hit songs from decades previous, they aren’t that cool.

As the news of Jerry Lee’s passing was breaking across the world, I was (probably???) doom-scrolling the social media site Twitter. As people discussed “The Killer,” a nickname for which he had been known, I saw a comment about a book that caught my attention. In the post-the person had claimed that a book about the life of Jerry Lee Lewis had been one of the best rock ‘n’ roll biographies they had ever read.

The best rock ‘n’ roll book? About Jerry Lee Lewis? An old timer, who my grandparents probably dug? No way. Not likely.

Those were all thoughts/comments that entered my mind as I read this preposterous post.

I’ll return to those thoughts in a minute.

                Social Media, for all its positives and negatives-has, as a positive, been a helpful tool in finding books of interest, and it delivered a gem again, with Hellfire by Nick Tosches. This is the book that the poster had declared “one of the best rock and roll” books he/she had ever read. And reader let me share with you-the poster could be RIGHT. This is the life story of Jerry Lee Lewis, “The Killer.” The story begins in the deep Louisiana with young Jerry Lee and follows him through the ups and downs of his blessed and somewhat cursed life. There are many details in the book about how Jerry Lee had a gift, which he used to achieve worldwide fame. As is familiar with rock stories, with more fame and money, also came many more problems.

I couldn’t put the book down. If reading about music and musicians is something you enjoy-you will not regret this book.



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profile-icon Michael Ramey

In the quest to read more books, it is easy to overlook the superb writing found in magazine articles. Like books, magazines cover an endless number of topics and interests from video games to fashion to astronomy. Now, with the power of the internet and St. Johns River State College’s library database Flipster, you can flip through and read the latest issues of digitized magazines to your heart’s content.

To access Flipster, all you need to do is sign into your SJR State account. On the MySJRState page, click on the “Library and Tutoring” link found in the green banner. This will take you to the Learning Resources home page. Then, click on “Databases,” and then under “Popular Databases,” you will find Flipster listed.

Flipster’s home page provides a list of all magazines that can be sorted by category. When clicking on a magazine, it opens just like a print version right off the magazine rack as seen below. For a more detailed view, click on the screenshot.


Screenshot of Flipster's interface with an open magazine.


I recommend giving Flipster a try. Not only is Flipster a good way to find magazines to enjoy, but it can also be a potential avenue for research.

For more information about Flipster, check out the upcoming employee-only webinar hosted by the library. Click on the image below for more details.




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profile-icon Dr. Brittnee Fisher

I can't speak for everyone, but the fall 2022 semester was a lot for me. And I mean that in every sense- mentally, physically, and emotionally. Between work and personal obligations, I barely got any reading done for enjoyment (62 books…I can do better). I was excited to read and relax when winter break came along. You can imagine my disappointment when I came down with COVID a few days before Christmas. I wasn't one of those lucky souls that had an easy time with COVID either. So, my reading plans were tabled between the extended illness, catching up with house chores, and requisite holiday activities.

Right before the break, I completed the audiobook The Cruel Prince, book one of The Folk of the Air series. I considered it to be merely okay, but since I already had the other two books in the series on audiobook, I figured I should complete the series before I forgot what it was about. After recovering from COVID brain fog and fatigue, I started book 2, The Wicked King. Luckily, I found book 2 way more exciting than book 1 and quickly became a big fan of the series. When I reached the end of the second book, I was thirsty for more and immediately started…and subsequently finished the third book in a matter of days. I think my tired mind needed a young adult fiction reprieve, and this series gave me precisely that. Finishing this series reignited my urge to read, too. What a relief!

This series is often referred to as a “romantic fantasy series” online. It is, but if you like a *spicier* romance, this series is not for you. I would call this a slow-burn young adult fantasy series. If you are like me, and you like a lot of dramatic build up- complete with an “enemies to lovers” scenario- this would be an excellent choice for you. I might be in the minority, but I like the build-up you get with a complicated romance. What can I say... I want to work for it!

After completing the series, I did go online to read the reviews. Like me, many people enjoyed these books for what they are, silly little young adult romance books involving fairies and "mortals." Some people, who I believe are taking themselves WAY too seriously, had complaints. If you take these for what they are- a nice break from reality- you'll probably enjoy them. If you are looking for sophistication- keep it moving!

You might recognize the author, Holly Black, from her contributions to The Spiderwick Chronicles, a popular juvenile fiction series. Black is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of over thirty fantasy novels for young adults and kids. She has won an impressive list of awards for her work. I certainly wouldn't mind another few books added to The Folk of the Air series. I will follow Black on social media to hear more about her upcoming work.

If you are interested in reading works by this author, don't hesitate to contact a librarian. We'll happily help you get ahold of a copy!

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profile-icon Kayla Cook

Many people have heard of Samuel Clemens, the Missouri boatman-turned-author who published countless newspaper articles, short stories, and novels under the name “Mark Twain,” a reference to the second mark on the line which measured the depth of the water beneath a vessel at two fathoms (approximately twelve feet in layman’s terms). Fewer people know about his wife, Olivia Langdon Clemens, who was, in many ways, just as worthy of recognition as he was. 

Olivia Langdon, born in Elmira, New York in 1845, was the daughter of a businessman in the coal industry. Though she was often ill, she was highly educated, independent, strong in her beliefs, and active in her community. Langdon was a staunch abolitionist, a feminist, and a founder of Hartford Art School, which is today the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Connecticut. 

Langdon met Clemens in 1867, and he quickly began his attempts to court her, largely through written letters, but also by taking her on such prestigious outings as a reading by famous English author Charles Dickens. However, Langdon was not interested at first, and turned down Clemens’s first proposal for marriage. Nevertheless, the two continued their correspondence, and were engaged by November 1868 and married fifteen months later in February 1870. The couple had four children and traveled together across the United States and Europe for Clemens’s work as a writer. Ill for much of her life, Olivia Langdon Clemens died in 1904 at the age of just fifty-eight while living in Florence, Italy, leading Clemens to move back to the United States to see her buried in her hometown of Elmira. 

Clemens lived only a few years after his wife’s passing, dying in 1910 at the age of seventy-four, but in the last few years of his life, he composed what many scholars believe was a final love letter to Olivia Langdon: The Diaries of Adam and Eve (originally published separately as Extracts from Adam’s Diary, and Eve’s Diary in 1904 and 1906 respectively). 

These “diaries” appear to be autobiographical. Not only do they reflect Clemens’s own views on religion, nature, and the geography of the American northeast, they also highlight Clemens’s relationship with his wife and the impact she had on his worldview. The story is something of a slow burn romantic comedy, with Adam initially finding Eve annoying and wishing she would leave him alone—seemingly more reflective of Langdon’s early perceptions of Clemens than of Clemens’s views of Langdon. Adam is perturbed by the way he finds his own worldview changing; Eve’s mere presence alters his views on nature, community, and sex, which he initially tries to rail against. Eventually, Adam grows to love Eve, too, and to love her children (though, initially, he was not sure what they were until they began to grow, and he saw that they were also humans), and to view Eve as his intellectual and communal equal, an apparent reference to Langdon’s support of the women’s equality movement and the impact that had on Clemens’s own views of women. 

Eve’s diaries make vague references to God, particularly at the time of their “fall” from Eden, saying that it was Adam who “told on” her. Adam’s diaries never take God into consideration. Instead, he focuses on his experiences as an individual and his relationships with the beautiful new world around him, and with Eve and their growing family. This omission of the creator on Adam’s part reflects Clemens’s disregard for religion, yet he grants Eve the liberty to make her references. Langdon had come from a religious family and remained a believer in God despite her husband’s rejection of religious institutions; and despite this rejection, Clemens respected his wife’s beliefs. In the end, however, after Eve’s part in the story has ended, it is Adam who makes the final biblical reference, writing, “Wheresoever she was, there was Eden.” 

Historical context and biographical analyses aside, Mark Twain’s Diaries are a beautiful story of love and loss. They are a celebration of these things, and of overcoming our differences as human beings, learning from one another how to become more compassionate and understanding, and finding happiness and fulfillment through our connections with one another. 

Cover ArtThe $30,000 Bequest by Mark Twain
ISBN: 9781775564362
Publication Date: 2009-01-01
The $30,000 Bequest And Other Stories is a collection of short stories by the iconic American writer and humorist Mark Twain. Twain was immensely popular in his day, among his critics and contemporaries as well as the numerous artists, presidents, industrialists and members of royalty whom he counted as friends. He remains popular to this day and is considered one of the great American authors.
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profile-icon Kendall McCurley

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful break and had a chance to catch up on some reading! I know that New Years is a time to set goals and resolutions for things that you want to happen, so here are some reading goals that you might want to try and tackle this year.

Read More Books (This Includes Audiobooks!)

It is hard to find time in busy schedules to sit down and read. So, this goal is simply about finding a few minutes here and there to read, even if that is just 10 minutes before bed. Audiobooks are a great option for those of us who don’t have the time to sit down and read. If you have a commute to work, while running errands, or maybe during your lunch break, you can listen to an audiobook.

Read More Diverse Books/Books You Don’t Normally Read

If you do find time to read, maybe try branching out to different genres or authors that you have never read before. You can rotate your books by reading something you are familiar with followed by something new. This might be a great resolution to have if you feel that you are stuck in rut with your reading choices.

Only Read Things You Find Interesting

Unlike the last resolution, this one is about being guilt free in reading what you like and sticking to it. Only like fantasy and have zero interest in historical fiction? Then don’t read historical fiction. Sometimes we feel that we have to read certain books or a variety of books when honestly, you should read what you want to (unless it’s for school or work… obviously.) This resolution is also about not forcing yourself to finish a book if you don’t like it. If you are 100 pages in with 200 pages to go and you are bored to tears, then stop reading it. This is about reading what you want to read without guilt.

Track Your Reading

While this sounds simple, it can be easy to forget. This resolution is something that I will (try) to do this year. I feel like a read so many books, but I would love to know how many books I actually get through in a year. Tracking your reading can also help you remember what books you have already read, and it can show you patterns in your reading such as most read genre and author, and it can give you a better idea for future reading goals.

Join a Book Club

If you love reading and you want to talk with others who love reading, you should join a book club! Joining a book club can help you diversify your reading, track your reading, and meet new people who have similar interests as you. Lucky for you, SJR state has a book club that you can join! We will be meeting twice a month on Wednesdays at noon at the library on each of the three campuses! Can’t wait to see you there!

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