Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Mary Lawson drew comparisons to Ian McEwan (Toronto Star), Rick Bass and Richard Ford (Publishers Weekly) for her novel Crow Lake, which Kirkus Reviews called "almost Proustian in its sense of loss and regret". Her latest, The Other Side of the Bridge, was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2006. The library's morning book club will discuss Crow Lake on Friday, February 1 from 10:30 am until about noon if you would like to join us. Even if you're not in the book club, I highly recommend you read Crow Lake.

Crow Lake is the story of two tragedies in the childhood of Kate Morrison, who grew up with her brothers and sister in an isolated farming town in northern Ontario, where the dirt road led only one way (south). Kate tells the story twenty years later, once she realizes she can no longer avoid a confrontation between her past and present lives. This how the New York Times Book Review succinctly described Crow Lake when it named it a Notable Book of 2002:

This ambitious first novel combines two standard motifs -- sudden orphanhood and rescue by an inspiring schoolteacher -- in an exploration of class and sibling rivalry, ennui and persistence, especially in the character of Kate Morrison, who rises against tall odds to an academic career she actually has little heart for.

Discussion questions can be found here.

This has little to do with Crow Lake, but as someone who read all of L.M. Montgomery's novels growing up, I have to mention that Mary Lawson is a distant relative of the Anne of Green Gables author. And Great-Grandmother Morrison was inspired by Mary Lawson's great-grandmother, who really did fix a book rest to her spinning wheel.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Celebrities Have Library Cards Too

Excuse the somewhat lowbrow post, but librarians are allowed to read People on their days off.

Click here for a picture of Jennifer Garner carrying books from the Brentwood library.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Longitude Books

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry.
- Emily Dickinson

I've just discovered the wonderful travel book suggestions at the web site of Longitude Books, which allows you to browse books geographically by clicking on a map of the world. More than just guidebooks and travel narratives, the site also has interesting lists of recommended books, such as Italian mysteries, books that will help you choose where to go, and list of books about culinary journeys (what could be better than combining the pleasures of reading, travel and food?).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Other People's Children by Joanna Trollope

Other People's Children: the title refers to the stepchildren in the four families in Joanna Trollope's 1999 novel. The book begins with Matthew and Josie's wedding, numbly and nervously observed by Rufus, Josie's son by her first marriage. Also at their wedding are Matthew's equally discombobulated three children by his first marriage. Soon to enter each others lives are the various ex-spouses, ex-in-laws, new girlfriends, new houses, new schools and teachers and old resentments. There is enough anger to go around in the ever-widening effect of Josie and Matthew's second marriage, but this is not a grim book. It is a thoughtful look at each individual character and his or her place in the wider family context of modern life. The story follows the family Matthew left behind, the family Josie left behind and the blended family they try to create. The outcomes are different. Some people adapt successfully and some do not. Jami Edwards writes on Bookreporter,
'This is the crux of this compelling novel: separateness, and the heartbreak and diligence it takes to mold that into the togetherness of a family. Trollope has the enviable knack of being able to take an ordinary subject and elevate it to the extraordinary with the soul-searching power of her finely tuned writer's eye.'
Joanna Trollope is an author who can be depended upon to deliver a good story with interesting characters who have complicated personal and moral dilemmas.

My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman

"I was raised in a brick dormitory at Dewing College, formerly the Mary-Ruth Dewing Academy, a finishing school best known for turning out attractive secretaries..." writes Frederica Hatch, the teenage narrator of Elinor Lipman's wryly funny My Latest Grievance (2006.) Frederica has been raised by liberal college professor parents and is just beginning to rebel against their egalitarian child rearing practises when her father's unscrupulous and melodramatic exwife arrives on campus to stir things up in their well-ordered lives.
Elinor Lipman is one of my favorite contemporary authors; her books are funny in an understated way, character driven, with ironic plot twists and satirical observations of modern life. If you click on the Amazon reviews, you will find reviews that get rather defensive about why funny books can also be very good literature and why women's books can rise above chic-lit, but still be popular, and why Elinor Lipman has devoted fans but really ought to be a best-selling author and is under appreciated. And of course the nod to Jane Austen to whom all good women authors who write comedies of manners or anything close are compared. Leaving aside the defensiveness about humor and the obsession with Austen as the standard for all women's writing, you should read Lipman's books if you like a sardonic look at modern life. Readers don't have to suffer through oh-so-serious tomes to enjoy good literature. To find out more about her, read some of her essays posted on her website.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Scribbling as Journalism, why not?

I'm intrigued by this article in UNC's Daily Tarheel, New journal open to all margin scribblers . Imaginative students are starting a journal titled Uncharted, the article explains,

"A new arts journal on campus will start not with a bang but a squiggle.Uncharted is calling for your drawings, your doodles and your cramped scribbles yearning to be expressed."

The editors will be taking submissions starting today on campus. Uncharted will feature the arts on a campus currently obsessed with the Tarheels (basketball team, that is.) The editors expound upon the creative brainstorming benefits of doodling,

"During class, a part of your mind is completely disconnected to your body," said doodler Trevor Brothers, a sophomore. "You look down and there's a picture.""It's better than falling asleep in lectures, but you're definitely not taking notes."

Go, Trevor, I say, and I might add, it's also better than text messaging during class. Isn't it possible that if you look at doodles on your notes, the content of the lecture pops to mind, permanently associated with that particular doodle? It worked that way for me, or at least I rationalized that it did. Somehow, my brain linked the spoken word (lecture) with the doodle in my notes in some part of my memory, forever entwined or at least entwined until the exam. Made it hard for people to borrow my notes and get much out of them though.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Top Books of 2007 at BHPL

Here's a quick look at titles published in 2007 with the most checkouts at BHPL:

Fiction (including Mystery)

1. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
2. I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark
3. The Quickie by James Patterson
4. Step on a Crack by James Patterson
5. Daddy's Girl by Lisa Scottoline
6. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
7. High Profile by Robert Parker
8. The 6th Target by James Patterson
9. Fresh Disasters by Stuart Woods
10. The Overlook by Michael Connelly

Nonfiction (including Biography)

1. How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman
2. The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown
3. Silent Partner : a Memoir of My Marriage by Dina McGreevey
4. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
5. Considering Doris Day by Tom Santopietro
6. The Black Swan : the Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Taleb
7. Born on a Blue Day : Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant : a Memoir by Daniel Tammet
8. Einstein : His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
9. Everyday Pasta by Giada De Laurentiis
10. After Diana : William, Harry, Charles, and the Royal House of Windsor by Christopher Andersen

Monday, January 14, 2008

Caldecott and Newbery Awards Announced at ALA today

The American Library Association's Midwinter meeting concludes today in Philadelphia with the announcement of this years children's and young adult literature awards.The Newbery Award for writing of children's books, The Caldecott for illustration of children's books and several other awards are listed in this press release:

' “Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village,” written by Laura Amy Schlitz, is the 2008 Newbery Medal winner. “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” illustrated by Brian Selznick, is the 2008 Caldecott Medal winner. The book is published by Scholastic.'

Take a look at this AP article for a summary of the award books:

'NEW YORK - A Baltimore librarian’s classroom project is now part of publishing history. "Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices From a Medieval Village," first conceived a decade ago by Laura Amy Schlitz, is this year’s winner of the John Newbery Medal for best children’s book.The Randolph Caldecott award for top picture book went to Brian Selznick’s "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," a 500-plus page hybrid of a graphic novel and traditional illustration about an orphan boy and a robot in Paris at the turn of the 20th century.Also today, science fiction author Orson Scott Card won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for "lifetime achievement in writing for young adults." Mo Willems’ "There Is a Bird in Your Head!" received the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for "the most distinguished book for beginning readers." '

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Das Nurnberger Eisbar, another Cute Knut!

Another German zoo is hand raising a baby polar bear . Here is the link to the Nurnberg Zoo's Bear website. Polar bears, or Ice Bears as the Germans call them, have nothing to do with libraries or books, but since the BHPL Book Blog approaches its 15,000 hit, this blogging librarian thought it's ok to take a break from books to celebrate. Enjoy the pictures of Flocke (Flake, as in snowflake.) Germans are already imagining that Flocke might one day become Mrs. Knut, click here for story. OK, America, wake up and smell the sauerkraut, we need to come up with a national animal story of equal cuteness.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Support Independent Booksellers

If you like the idea of having a local bookshop with knowledgable booksellers who can find books for your bookclub or for gifts, take a look at BookSense which has lists of books with brief descriptions. You can search for an indendent bookstore by zipcode to find one near you.

Quick note before the weekend bell rings at BHPL, here is the link to the latest library newsletter, the Buzz for January. If you want to get on the mailing list for this email newsletter, call or email the reference desk. If you signed up and no Buzz arrived, it could be that the Buzz editor could not read your handwriting on the sign-up slip. Please let us know.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Most Checked Out Nonfiction at BHPL

1. Images of America: Berkeley Heights by Virginia Troeger
2. The South Beach Diet by Arthur Agatston
3. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
4. The Glass Castle: a Memoir by Jeannette Walls
5. Reading Lolita in Tehran: a Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
6. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
7. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
8. Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan
9. The World is Flat: a Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Friedman
10. Tuesdays with Morrie: an Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom

Consider this interesting fact from the first title on the list the next time you're stopped at the intersection of Plainfield and Springfield Avenues: this is where Berkeley Heights' first traffic light was located, circa 1930. A policeman operated it while standing in front of Crabby's Tavern (see page 17).

An update on the race for most checked out adult fiction title at BHPL: the Kite Runner has pulled ahead of the Da Vinci Code. (Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun!)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Most Checked-Out Fiction at BHPL

The top-ten most checked out fiction titles at BHPL are:

1 (tie) The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
1 (tie) The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
4. Split Second by David Baldacci
5. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
6. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
7. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
8 (tie) Deception Point by Dan Brown
8 (tie) Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult
10. Atonement by Ian McEwan

This seems to be pretty representative of what I've noticed many readers check out . . a combination of great literary fiction and on-the-edge-of-your-chair suspense.

Come in and break the tie for first place!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Books of 2008: Coming Soon to Your Library

USA Today online has a really nifty interactive book calendar, click here. Click on a month and then "page" through the book day by day to see what books will be coming out this winter. For example, coming out in January, Zadie Smith's (as editor) the Book of Other People, short stories by Nick Hornby, Jonathon Safran Foer and others. Sue Miller's new book, the Senator's Wife will be out January 11. Sure to be a bestseller, Tom Cruise, the Unauthorized Biography by Andrew Morton will be released January 15. Books I'm looking forward to: another Maisie Dobbs mystery, An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear, February 19; a new Jhumpa Lahiri, Unaccustomed Earth, in April. On the light side, Jennifer Weiner, Certain Girls, and Alice Hoffman, The Third Angel, also will have new books out in April. Autobiographies by Helen Mirren and Julie Andrews should also be popular coming in March and April. This should keep readers busy until warm weather arrives and going outdoors competes with curling up with a book, dog on your feet, snow at the window.

Daniel Gordon Art Exhibit

After three years in the making, two new sculptures by Berkeley Heights artist Daniel Gordon are on display in the lobby at BHPL this month.

The print’s compositions feature naturalistic scenes interwoven with the words, “understanding, respect, connection, love and peace.” Mr. Gordon cuts and carves the original artwork onto wooden blocks, which are rolled with ink and pressed onto thick papers. The prints are done in oil based ink and the background effects are accomplished with dyes.

The prints are then stretched and applied to wooden structures using copper nails. Keep an eye out for the word that one of the structures spells - many of us missed it the first time.

Mr. Gordon has been working as a craftsman and artist for 20 years, specializing in the art of marquetry. In that past five years Gordon has focused more on creating works using printmaking and painted techniques, as well as sculpture that employs marquetry.

From 1989-1995 Mr. Gordon worked as an independent furniture maker with shops in East Orange, NJ and Chatham, NJ before joining Pollaro Custom Furniture in 1995. In 2003 Gordon left the high end woodworking business to teach woodworking full time at Mahwah High School in Mahwah, NJ.

Gordon has exhibited as a professional artisan in galleries in New Jersey and New York. While at Pollaro Custom Furniture, Union, NJ, Gordon did complicated marquetry and wood inlay projects for clients including Jim Henson Productions and Steinway and Sons.