Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Best Mysteries

Take a look at several of the many mystery writer organizations that give annual awards in the mystery genre. The Shamus , Agatha, Edgar, Anthony, MacAvity, and Barry awards are all listed on the website's award section as well as having their own websites. The Mystery Writers of America website lists the Edgars and other MWA awards. The awards are divided up into best first mystery, best paperback original, lifetime achievement, best non-fiction, best short story, and so on. The Shamus award is for books with a P.I. protagonist (Private Investigator.) The Agathas celebrate the mystery in the traditional style of Agatha Christie. Each organization explains its criteria and specialty on its website.
I can't list a favorite for 2005, but I just finished Death Without a Trace by Gerard Murphy about Irish brewer, Madigan, of Dublin who works as an investigator on the side to earn money to pay child support/alimony to his ex-wife. The novel takes the form of a "noir" mystery; Madigan has a rather dismal existence and takes a dim view of life in modern Ireland. Look on Amazon's United Kingdom site for more information on this book and other books from the U.K.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

End of Year Best Books Lists

I'm trying to find as many on-line best books lists of 2005 as I can. If you know of one I've missed, click on "Comment" and tell us about it with the URL please. Or you can tell us what your favorite books of the year were. Comments will not appear immediately because I need to vet them first due to bad experiences with blog spammers. What follows are lists I have found so far, mostly for adult books. Every regional newspaper seems to have a list, but they tend to be the same books mentioned over and over, so if you find a list with a new and different point of view, that would be great too. The Metacritics Meta list is what could be called the Mother of All Lists, so there is overlap in the listmaking of lists too. The mind boggles.

NYT Best Books of 2005
NYT 100 Notable Books of the Year
Amazon's Best Books of 2005
Christian Science Monitor Best Fiction 2005
School Library Journal Best Books 2005 for children and teens
Seattle Times Best Books 2005
Salt Lake Tribune Best Books 2005
Metacritics Meta List

Monday, December 12, 2005

PostSecrets: Post Cards Project

The Weekend Edition of NPR featured the book PostSecrets by Frank Warren. Warren asked people to send him hand-made postcards revealing a secret they have never told to anyone. Eventually, he received thousands of postcards, created a website and published a book. The book is on order at BHPL. In the meanwhile, take a look at the examples of postcards on the website. The artwork is original and the secrets range from the bizarre to dark, humorous or, as Warren said in an "All Things Considered" interview last march: "gross."

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Fun with Mitochondrial DNA

Unlike my last post about reading when your mind is sidelined by a cold virus, reading about genetics, even written for the layman, obviously takes a certain dogged concentration. Our latest book display near the Reference Desk is called "Non-Fiction that Reads Like Fiction." A lot of science writing these days is very readable and entertaining and usually fairly comprehensible, even for the science/math-challenged among us. At least you won't be tested after reading these.
A reference question from a patron who wanted to know where and from whom he is descended in pre-history, got me going on mitochondrial DNA - which is the kind that passes unchanged (except for occasional natural mutations) down the matrilineal line. This is the kind of DNA that was tested to determine that there were seven women in pre-history who were the common, maternal ancestors to currently living Europeans. How this research came to this conclusion is told in the Seven Daughters of Eve by Brian Sykes. The theory is not undisputed but it's a lot of fun to read about. For a very funny review click on "My Mum is Older Than Your Mum" reviewed in the Observer. Reviewer Robin McKie notes that, "It is an intriguing story, though qualifications should be noted. For a start, the Seven Daughters of the book's title refer only to Europe's founding mothers. Another 26 maternal lineages have since been uncovered on other continents, although Sykes ignores them, presumably because The 33 Daughters of Eve makes a crap title." That's the kind of bluntly funny review you will never find in a U.S. newspaper.
I also took out The Human Genome and Genetics Demystified, which looked like nice primers to bring me out of my three decade out-of-date bare bones knowledge of genetics. The library subscribes to Access Science, a database which you can access from our homepage or from library computers. It has concise articles with links, drawings, illustrations and bibliographies for further study. The Reference Librarians can help you use this database and/or email articles to you from the database about subjects of interest.

Rhinovirus got you down? What to Read When You Are Too Sick to Think

Go to the paperback originals (published right to paperback rather than hardcover) for really light reading. Before capitulating to a bad cold this week, I grabbed two mysteries off the New Fiction shelf which turned out to be entertaining, light, funny and just the right degree of mindlessness to penetrate my cottonwool-filled brain. As the snow came blowing in, I read Witch Way to Murder by Shirley Damsgaard which is about a thirty-something librarian, Ophelia Jensen, who with the help of her grandmother Abby and a handsome stranger in town, solves some local mysteries involving thefts of fertilizer, murder and a bomb-making militia group in small-town Summerset, Iowa. The hook here is that Ophelia and Abby are psychics or good witches who practice Appalachian-style, folk magick - the good kind.
I'm back at work and will finish the other mystery this weekend: My Very Own Murder by Josephine Carr. Fifty-something, divorced, wealthy Anne Johnson, lives in a beautiful old apartment building near Rock Creek Park and the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. She and a new friend solve a murder which hasn't happened yet. This book is wryly funny with sassy middle-aged women characters. The hook here, for me, is that I lived in the apartment building right next to Anne's not-really fictional one, while I was in library school, and I used to walk to the Zoo daily.
Which brings me to a non-book thing to do while sick, or well, or just in need of a pleasant diversion: go (immediately) to the panda cam site of the National Zoo to see the baby panda, Tai Shan, play and roll around and eat and sleep and do other really adorable panda activities. Sometimes his large mother, Mei Xiang, ambles in front of the camera and picks up and cuddles Tai Shan. Tai Shan is five months old and yesterday was his official debut; unfortunately he slept through most of the wildly anticipated event. He does sleep a lot, but be patient, when he plays, it's worth the wait.

New on the Bestseller Lists

Dean Koontz' Forever Odd is new on the NYT fiction list this week. On the non-fiction list, Bob Spitz' The Beatles appears for the first time this week. Jan and Michael Stern give the Beatles book a very favorable review despite reservations about its 1000 page length and as they note, "we had to wonder what could possibly be left to say about the musical foursome whom John Lennon once declared more popular than Jesus."
I was wondering that myself, since most fans know the Fab Four's story as well as their own life story. But there was something left to say, and it's all in this massive tome.
For more current book news, click on the RSS feed to the NYT Book section at the bottom of this blog. (Use Microsoft IE, not Firefox to view.)

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Favorite Holiday Books

Searching for Hanukkah books in the library catalog can be a bit tricky because of the variant spellings. "Hanukkah" will produce 59 titles (childrens and adult books and videos). Take out one 'n', "Hanukah" gets you 27 results. "Chanukah" turns up 27 also. I'm not sure it's the exact same 27. Such are the vagaries of the catalog. But anyway, here are some of my favorites.
Hanukkah lights: stories of the season: from NPR's annual holiday special (Fic HAN - with CD) is new this year, with stories from Daniel Pinkwater (author of the Hoboken Chicken Emergency and many other really funny, must-read kids books), Elie Wiesel, Mark Helprin, Harlan Ellison and others. Hanukah Money by Sholem Aleichem illustrated by Uri Shulovitz (who wrote and illustrated Snow, a wonderful picture book for read-a-louds this time of year.) The Power of light: eight stories of Hanukkah by Isaac Bashevis Singer, also a good choice for reading aloud during Hanukkah. And Celebrating the Jewish Holidays: cooking, crafts and traditions (296.4 KAL) nicely illustrated with photographs and art reproductions.

"Kwanzaa" typed into the catalog gets 19 or so results, depending on how you design your search. K is for Kwanzaa: a Kwanzaa Alphabet Book by Juwanda Ford (J394.261 FOR) is illustrated in bright, jewel-like colors. Kwanzaa, an African American Celebration of Culture and Cooking by Eric Copage (641.59 COP) in the cookbook section brings together the holiday and traditional foods.

Come see the holilday display in the foyer display case and be sure to ask the reference librarians for book recommendations during the holiday season.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Christmas Books

The clock is ticking away towards December 26 and those hard-to-buy-gifts-for people are making a lot of us feel anxious. What better present could there be than a book? And you can always borrow it or read it before you give it, so here are a few suggestions.
Books about Christmas, collections of stories and traditions, Christmas mysteries, Christmas crafts and on and on, are a whole burgeoning genre at this time of year. Try A Dixie Christmas: Holiday Stories from the South's Best Writers, from the Algonquin Press, the third in a series of collections of holiday stories from editor Charlene McCord. It features favorite Southern writers Bailey White, Rick Bass and Ellen Gilchrist among others.
For kids, try Robert Sabuda's Winter's Tale: an Original Pop-up Journey. Sabuda is the master of pop-up book engineering. His Twelve Days of Christmas: a Pop-up Celebration is also gorgeous. If you give your children a Christmas book every year, they will have a wonderful collection for life and it makes gift shopping a little easier.