Tuesday, November 29, 2005

U.S.A.'s Most Literate Cities

According to a study by John Miller of Central Connecticut State University, Seattle is the most literate city in the U.S.; Minneapolis is second; Washington, D.C is third. These results are based on rankings in six categories: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores and library resources and so on. The study is posted online at this site. The 'Factoids' section notes that
'The number of public library staff per capita, number of retail bookstores per capita, and magazines published per capita are significantly related to more other literary factors than any of the other variables.' Nice to feel appreciated.

Monday, November 28, 2005

New York Times Book News

This blog now has a site-feed from the New York Times about books. See the black box at the bottom of the page. And don't miss the New York Times free, Online Book Section.
The library subscribes to the full content of the New York Times back to 1851, so if you need articles that don't appear for free on their website, don't pay for them, your tax dollars have already done that. Come to the library, or call, and we will show you how BH residents can access the full-text NYT.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Browsing the New Non-Fiction Shelf at BHPL

I just finished Alice Hoffman's The Probable Future, a fairly typical Hoffman quasi-wiccan/feminist tale of a family of eccentric New England women with secret powers that connect them to nature in unusual ways. Not to minimize her talent in one "run-on" sentence, but if you have read her work, you might recognize that as the gist of her philosophy. If you liked her titles - Practical Magic, Second Nature or Here on Earth, as I did, you will also enjoy this one. The book group gave it good reviews except for one member who found the happily tied-up loose endings contrived and unsatisfying. Of course if happy endings aren't a problem for you, go for it. You could say that The Probable Future is a bit improbable but heartwarming.
So anyway, I am now "between books" and resorting to browsing through the subset of non-fiction books described by subject catalogers as "Life Skills - Humor" or "Conduct of Life - Humor" which sounds kind of stuffy. First off, a British best-selling import, described on the fly leaf as hilarious essays by a well-known humor columnist.
Never Hit a Jellyfish with a Spade: How to survive life's smaller challenges by Guy Browning didn't reduce me to a lump of helpless hilarity at first, but as I randomly jumped around this smallish book, I found that the section on politics is pretty funny in a dead-pan, ironic kind of way, so I will keep that on the bed-side table for a while.
Next, A Man Without a Country, Kurt Vonnegut's latest, also a collection of essays about politics, which could be cataloged under "Political Satire" but it isn't which should explain why it's so hard to find things in a library.I saw Vonnegut on the Daily Show and he looked exactly the same as always and was bitingly funny, bitter, but funny.

Christmas Craft Books in the Library

Beautiful Floral Christmas: 16 Easy Christmas Decorations (745.92 BEA)
Shows how to make wreaths and centerpieces from natural materials, beautiful full-page, color photos of each project.

Christmas Decorations from Williamsburg by Susan Hight Rountree (745.59412 ROU)
How to create colonial decorations, wreaths, topiaries, kissing balls and table settings.

Simply Christmas: great ideas for a noncommercial holiday by Mary Thompson
(394.2 PAX) Ideas for cards, gift wrap, gifts, food gifts, decorations.
Gooseberry Patch Christmas Books series (394.268 GOO) are similar to the Better Homes Christmas Ideas series.

Forever Christmas by Tasha Tudor (394.2663 DAV) featuring the famed illustrator’s watercolors, her hand-built house – Corgi Cottage, hand-made toys, candles, gingerbread, dollhouses and recipes in the 19th century style of her life.

For more craft ideas try the northpole.com website or northpolechristmas.com.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

We are thankful that there are cookbooks to show us the way, like
Betty Crocker's Complete Thanksgiving Cookbook and the Betty Crocker website where you can download a Holiday Planner, watch a cooking video, get recipes and advice and more.

Monday, November 21, 2005

National Book Awards

The National Book Award winners were announced last week: Joan Didion won for her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking which recounts the year her husband of many years died while at the same time her daughter was very ill. William T. Vollman won the fiction award for Europe Central, a reimagining of World War II.
For lists of other award winners, go to BookSpot.com.
The American Library Association also has lists of book awards and Recommended Reading
for children, teens and adults on its site.

Reference is Cool

Salem Press, publisher of reference books, has created a website dedicated to the idea that "Reference is Cool."
Librarians have been emailing ideas, links, pictures and so on with enthusiasm fueled, I think, by the desire of the often underappreciated to be noticed. That and the library profession's perennial discontent with our stereotypical image as shushing, humorless, bun-wearing, pen-wielding nerds. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing to be - take a look at the Librarian Action Figure with Amazing Shushing action aka Nancy Pearl.

The Librarian by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Time Traveler's Wife

Audrey Niffenegger's first novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, is a bestseller and a favorite for bookclubs. Take a look at an interview with the author where Niffenegger shares her thoughts on her book.
I read it with my local book club and an on-line book club and would like to share some of their comments with you. There was a lot of discussion about Henry being an unpleasant or dislikeable character. In his defense, Jan wrote:
"One of the most powerful things for me about Henry is his inability to control his comings and goings. It is as if he experiences an extreme form of fate; incidentally not unlike the Greek conception -- I loved Niffennegger's quote at the very end from the Odyssey. The fact that he remained sane, and learned to live with his affliction, was amazing; I think I would have been tempted earlier to win the lottery, or otherwise try to use my condition more to affect my life, or even considered suicide when things were really out of hand. I think it is an important choice by the writer that he didn't, but lived within the confines of his condition (including his long and agonizing injuries towards the end.)"
And Margy wrote another explanation for his behavior:
"As to comments about Henry not being a very nice guy. I think you have to take the approach, much in the way that the book does, that if a person has a disability, then there are going to be other issues as a result of that disability. For example, a child with autism or ADHD isn’t always able to meet behavior expectations in a classroom. The child is labeled as a trouble maker instead of the adults understanding that the behavior may be result of the disability. If you accept the time traveling as a disability, then Henry is just trying to survive, much in the same way that a child with disabilities tries to survive in the classroom. It isn’t always pretty picture. It doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be accountability for the actions, just that there should be understanding as to why they happened."
Judy wrote:
"Henry didn't bother me too much. Between the loss of his mother, his emotionally unavailable father, and his "disease", he had reason to be difficult."
The consensus seemed to be that Henry was not "nice", but we could understand why.

The question of whether Clare was too much the "stand by your man" type of woman, rather than a feminist also came up. Jan wrote:
"Is Clare a feminist? Not in a political sense, her world is too small. But I think so, in the way I define it -- does she have the self-authorization, the self-assurance, the self-respect and determination to live her life as she defines it, without bowing to outside pressures and expectations (whether from family, tradition, or socio-political movements)? Her passion happens to be another person (a male of her species) and her child by that person, not a job or career, or calling or organization, the pursuit of which passions by women are more often thwarted by our society and culture and so more quickly invoke the political-feminist feature of the situation. "
The Time Traveler's Wife is a passionate love story, built around a difficult premise of time travel. It is a dark story with one of the main characters, Henry, being at best, rough around the edges. It's a sad story for Clare, who always waits.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pride and Prejudice, a new look

A new version of Pride and Prejudice opened at the movies and, coincidentally (or not,) a new book of literary criticism makes a nice companion piece to this renewed interest in Jane Austen. Flirting with Pride and Prejudice: Fresh Perspectives on the Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece. Edited by Jennifer Cruise (BenBella 2005) is a collection of critical essays about the book and the author with the novel approach that Austen's works were the precursors to the current "chick-lit" best-sellers.
Chick-lit is the kind of book that talks about shopping, sex, young single women in the city, and probably lots of fashion, especially shoes. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger (2003), Handbags and Gladrags by Maggie Alderson (2005), Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes (2004), Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella (2002) and so on, along the lines of Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell (1997) are chick-lit. It's hard to believe that Austen even remotely fits in that category, but it is a good "hook" to trick people into reading good literature, I guess.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Jarhead: a Marine's chronicle of the Gulf War and other battles (2003)

Jarhead, the movie based on the book of the same name, by Anthony Swofford, opened last weekend. In one of the many first-hand accounts that came out of that war, Swofford tells about his experience as a marine in the first Gulf war. The present war in Iraq is also inspiring many personal accounts by soldiers and journalists. The difference this time around is the presence of the internet and specifically, of the blogs (weblogs) created by many American soldiers and Iraqis.

Baghdad Burning Girl Blog from Iraq by Riverbend is a book based on the blog by a young Iraqi living in Baghdad and writing about the war and politics of Iraq from her very personal perspective.

Journalists have also contributed to the outpouring of books about the Iraq War. Naked in Baghdad, the Iraq War (2003) as seen by NPR’s correspondent Anne Garrels covers the start of the war. Asne Seierstad (Bookseller of Kabul) wrote A Hundred and One Days, a Baghdad Journal (2003) which also covers the beginning of the war. Boots on the Ground, a Month with the 82nd Airborne in the Battle for Iraq by Karl Zinsmeister (2003) recounts the war from a battlefield perspective. All these titles can be found in the BHPL collection.
A search for ‘Iraq War’ in the BHPL catalog results in 54 titles; in Amazon it turns up 2,401 hits, and 201 titles can be found in Ingram, the library’s book supplier. So it’s safe to say that this war is being heavily written about. But the most up-to-date and realistic accounts are the blogs. There are now probably 200 military blogs. Take a look at some of the soldier’s blogs linked to this page in USA Today which lists sources of military blogs.
A good blog to start with is My War by Colby Buzzell