Monday, September 29, 2008

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

The library book group will be meeting on Friday at 10:30 a.m. to discuss The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond. The Year of Fog recounts a year in the life of Abby, a photographer who lets her fiance's daughter out of her sight for a moment on a foggy beach in San Francisco. Emma disappears, and the question of whether she drowned or whether she was kidnapped kept me glued to the book. Abby's convinced that if she can just remember the right detail, that single clue will lead her to Emma. So, the reader learns along with Abby the quirks and vagaries of memories, and how the memory works. (The information about memory theaters may sound familiar to you - we read about "memory mansions" in The Madonnas of Leningrad last September.)

Abby takes a photo of Emma with a Holga camera the day she loses her on the beach. They are cheap plastic cameras that let in a lot of light and therefore take distorted pictures, just like our memory distorts reality. The author points out that "the cover image of the novel shows the bright color-wash and blurry edges you can achieve with the Holga" in case you're wondering what the photos look like. Speaking of distorted memories, check out the Memory Painter exhibit that is mentioned in the book.

Abby wanders through all the neighborhoods of San Francisco looking for Emma. To see photos of the places mentioned in The Year of Fog, check out the Year of Fog Project on Flickr. Reviewers disagree as to whether Richmond “captures the spirit of life in The City" or whether she "was trying too hard to get all these spots [in San Francisco] into the book." Which reviewer do you agree with? What makes a setting important or real?

As you read the book, did you think Emma was alive or dead? What led you to guess one way or another?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Random Picks from the New Non-fiction Shelf

Read on...Crime Fiction, Reading Lists for Every Taste by Barry Trott. Looking for Chick Lit mysteries or hard-boiled or a certain locale or time period? Take a look at these lists.

What Should I Read Next? Jessica R. Feldman, editor. Readings in history, politics, literature, math, science and the arts.

Lost in the Museum, buried treasures and the stories they tell by Nancy Moses. Including a very unusual collection at Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians in Philadelphia. I can't say what in this family friendly blog...

Introvert Power, why your inner life is your hidden strength by Laurie Helgoe. Shy people strike back, now. Or, well, pretty soon...

Friend or Frenemy, a guide to the friends you need and the ones you don't by Andrea Lavinthal. Includes the Friend Commandments.

Working World, careers in international education, exchange and development by Sherry L. Mueller. All you international relations majors, listen up...

Killing Sacred Cows, overcoming the financial myths that are destroying your prosperity by Garrett B. Gunderson. Personal finance. Maybe congress/ Wall Street could use this title this week?

Let's Talk Turkey, the stories behind America's Favorite Expressions by Rosemarie Ostler. With a whole chapter on politics. Straw poll? Stump speech? Hat in the ring?

In Arabian Nights by Tahir Shah, author of the Caliph's House. English travel writer travels across Morocco. My book group loved the Caliph's House, this might be a good follow-up.

Another Day at the Reference Desk

To continue Ellen's post of Monday, September 22, here is a rundown of questions patrons have asked today at the Reference Desk:

4 people asked for the location of and for help with Consumer Reports; one wanted stove ratings (called "ranges" for some reason by CR); one wanted car ratings (the April issue plus a separate CR car book); one wanted information on window replacements and one patron just wanted to know where the CR are shelved. FYI: BHPL also gets CR online through EBSCO database or JerseyClicks.

Several non-Berkeley Heights residents wanted to know how to use our internet computers (just register your hometown library card at the Circulation Desk and then the barcode will get you into BHPL's internet computers.)

Phone calls: several title checks including for CD's of Rimsky-Korsakov's music and bios of Audrey Hepburn. FYI: our catalog is available online, but we do catalog searches and set books aside for patrons who call. BHPL subscribes to thousands of musical recordings which can be listened to online through our website.

2 requests for language tapes: Italian for one patron, Hebrew for another. (We also have downloadable language audiobooks from NetLibrary.)

Request for 2007 tax tables.

Various "directional" questions: "Where is the...?"

Various phone calls about BHPL's hours today. (We don't have a phone menu, humans answer our phones except during closed hours.)

Various office supplies requests: stapler, staple remover, white out, pens etc.

Photo-copier help.

High School reading list books. (Someone's procrastinating!)

Pretty routine so far...

Friday, September 26, 2008

More Than Just a Catchy Title

I want to read these books, which all happen to have great titles and great reviews. However, I don't have time right now, so I am graciously extending the opportunity to you. These books are even in the library right now.

The Highly Effective Detective
by Richard Yancey. A security guard-turned-PI's effectiveness does not extend to actually getting a license to practice.
This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin. A psychologist writes about music's effect on your brain.
Zugzwang by Ronan Bennett. Zugzwang is a chess term referring to a situation in which a player can only make things worse. Zugzwang the book is about a psychoanalyst in pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg who must crack a conspiracy in order to prove his own innocence.
Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire by Rafe Esquith. I only teach computer classes, but this sounds great.
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson. Dang, now the truth about librarians is out.

BHPL Fiction "Bestsellers"

These are the most popular books at the library that were published this year. The books that came out earlier this year have a head start, since they've had longer to check out.

1. The Appeal by John Grisham
2. Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich
3. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
4. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
5. 7th Heaven by James Patterson
6. Honor Thyself by Danielle Steele
7. Sail by James Patterson
8. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
9. Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber
10. The Senator's Wife by Sue Miller

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Busy Monday Morning

If you've ever been curious about what the reference librarians are staring at on their computer screens, or what they're doing when they're not at their desks, here are some things that I did this morning:

-Helped a patron find ancient customs relating to the fall equinox - which is today.
-Helped a mom find books about sharks and thunder for her little girls.
-Requested 5 copies of The Friday Night Knitting Club through interlibrary loan for a local book group. If you are interested in having us get books for your book group, let us know.
-Ordered more memory for the computers at the circulation desk because we're upgrading to a new version of the circulation system software.
-Handed a patron the Municipal Land Use Procedures Ordinances (which are not online).
-Took a children's computer out of storage and tested the Internet jacks in the newly renovated children's room (they work).
-Directed someone to the Berkeley Heights fall chipping schedule.
-Helped a patron photocopy a newspaper article.
-Logged a guest without a library card onto our Internet computers.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea is the story of Greg Mortenson, an ER nurse and climber who decided to build a school in the village where he recovered his health after a failed attempt on K2 in Pakistan. His fundraising efforts reached Jean Hoerni, a former climber and one of Silicon Valley's pioneers, and the Central Asia Institute was born to build schools in rural Pakistan, especially for girls. It's rare to read a book that's both fast-paced and inspiring. Mortenson was detained by the Taliban, set up schools in refugee camps in Pakistan, and witnessed the aftermath of the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan.

In a semi-unrelated note, the last time this many members of my family all ended up reading the same book, it was Blame It On Paris by Laura Florand, a hilarious memoir marketed as a novel that's partially set in my hometown (not Paris, but a town in Georgia). My sister disliked Three Cups of Tea enough to put it in the recycle bin. I think that's what people in California do instead of burning books. =)

Adventure Photographs has pictures of Concordia ("the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods") and other places in the Karakoram that are in the book.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What To Do Once You've Read All of ____'s Books

If you're at a loss because you've finished all the recent books written by your favorite authors, find a new one to try with NoveList's author read-alike essays. (You can get to NoveList from the library home page; click on Remote Databases and log in. Click on EBSCO, then NoveList).

Search for the author you love and see if a "Author Read-alike" tab appears above your search results. (Warning: not every author has a read-alike essay in NoveList). I tried looking up Richard Russo, someone whose books are very sought after at BHPL. Joyce Saricks wrote a wonderful essay recommending Michael Chabon, Anne Tyler, Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Malone and K. C. Constantine as possibilities for Russo fans.

Another author whose fans wipe out the shelves at BHPL is Jodi Picoult. Kaite Mediatore's NoveList essay suggests Chris Bohjalian as Picoult's closest match, with Jacquelyn Mitchard another strong choice for Picoultites. Also she recommended Luanne Rice, Ann Hood and Sue Miller.

Do any of your favorite authors' books have something in common? If you have any author pairings to recommend, let us know in the comments.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Library Loans Videos from its Website

This weekend a patron asked for a video or DVD about Hawaii. The library didn't have quite what the patron wanted on the shelf, but we do offer travel videos through our website. BHPL subscribes to MyLibrarydv which allows patrons to download videos such as America's Test Kitchen, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen, Antiques Roadshow, and other TV shows. MyLibrarydv also offers travel shows: Globe Trekker, Rick Steves' Europe and TravelView International where we found four programs about Hawaii.
To access this resource from your home computer or any other internet-connected computer, go to the library homepage, and click on the MyLibrarydv logo at the bottom of the page.
With this database patrons can borrow videos (they last for seven days on your hard drive) without leaving home, without paying any fees, without ever worrying about overdue fines, without using a DVR or recording device of any kind.
Try it out. If you have questions, please call the Reference Desk during library hours.
(908) 464-9333.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Library's New Database Explains Lipstick on a Pig

BHPL has just launched a new database, Visual Thesaurus. Type in a word and up pops a "cloud" of related words and definitions. Click on a shortcut to hear the word pronounced. Click on the menu to translate words into other languages. There is also a newsletter attached with articles about language, a word of the day, a crossword puzzle and other linguistic oddities that would appeal to fans of Lynne Truss' Eats, Shoots and Leaves and similar books about grammar and language.
Today's Visual Thesaurus News features an article, Of Pigs and Silk and Lipstick by Ben Zimmer which traces the evolution of the phrase from the 16th century to the present day "kerfuffle" as he calls it. He writes,
"I was surprised to see how far back similar piggish proverbs go. Everybody knows "you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear," suggesting that something without inherent value can't be transformed into something valuable. That saying has been traced back to 1579,..."
Eventually sayings about dressing up pigs in silk clothes evolved into putting lipstick on pigs and the rest is history.
Please try our new database which can be accessed from our homepage through the "Remote Databases" link.
Speaking of databases, I decided to put the phrase "lipstick on a pig" into BHPL's databases and see how many times it turned up in the thousands of periodicals and newspapers indexed in them. The results varied. In EBSCO Masterfile Premier, the phrase turned up 23 hits over the last few years.EBSCO turned up 900 hits in all it's databases combined. You can use JerseyClicks to try this experiment. It will search for a phrase in thousands of articles stored in the databases that make up JerseyClicks. For Gale Custom Newspapers, I got 50 hits. I thought there would be more, but I think the databases do not search phrases as well as they do boolean searches so that throws the results off.
Putting the phrase into the BHPL catalog comes up with Torie Clarke's 2006 book, Lipstick on a Pig which has been getting a lot of free publicity lately.

PS: Visual Thesaurus defines a kerfuffle as a hoo-hah or to-do or hurly-burly or disturbance...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Roberta Isleib on Berkeley Heights and Asking for Murder

Roberta Isleib, a Berkeley Heights native and the author of the Golf Lover’s mystery series and the Advice Column mystery series, has stopped by the blog today for questioning! Her latest book, Asking for Murder, is the third to feature Rebecca Butterman, a divorced 30-something psychologist and advice columnist.

Can you tell us about your experience growing up in Berkeley Heights? Did you ever suspect that you would become an author back then?

Berkeley Heights was a wonderful place to grow up! I moved there just before first grade and my family stayed until I was in my early twenties (minus a few years outside Detroit, which we hardly count!) I lived on Sutton Drive, a brand-new neighborhood packed with kids. The parents threw block parties and Halloween parties and coffee klatches and bridge sessions, and the kids tore around the streets on bikes and built forts in the woods. As a fanatic reader, I also spent a lot of time in the library. My sister and I would come home from school and go directly to our rooms with books. Of course I read every Nancy Drew installment, along with Hardy Boys, Cherry Ames, the Bobbsey Twins, and lots of mainstream novels. But I never imagined I'd grow up to be a writer, especially not fiction. The only fiction I ever wrote during those years was a saccharine short story involving a romance with Mickey Dolenz (one of the Monkees.) Let's just say I'm glad that's been permanently lost:)

I was always picking up interesting snippets of psychology as I read your books (one tip from Deadly Advice: don’t sit between your patient and the door!). Your background as a psychologist is perfect for writing mysteries, isn’t it?

From the very beginning, I wanted to use my training in clinical psychology by including reasonable psychologists in my novels. The challenge was to dream up characters who could use the principles of psychology to help solve mysteries without imploding with self-importance, stumbling over personal issues, or crossing ethical boundaries. Most of the time, shrinks in the media end up looking very foolish! It's been a lot of fun to write about Rebecca Butterman's world--her psychotherapy practice is very similar to the one I had (though of course I wouldn't use my own clients in the mysteries.)

A psychologist has to think like a detective in many ways: start with the patient's problem (the so-called "crime"), look for clues in their history, and follow these trails to find a solution.

Do you ever get to do any real-life research for any of your books? I hope you tasted all of the meals in Asking for Murder to make sure you described them properly!

When I was writing the golf mystery series, the research was a huge bonus! Who else but a writer gets to play on amazing golf courses and write it off on her taxes? Rebecca Butterman's books are set close to home--the town next to mine--but I've still had some fascinating experiences. ASKING FOR MURDER features a sandplay therapist, which I knew nothing about when I started. Based on the principles of Carl Jung, this kind of therapy invites the patient to choose from shelves and shelves of figurines and place them in a large sand box. After the arrangement is "complete," the patient and therapist look it over together and try to understand the meaning--or make the unconscious meaning conscious.

As for food, my character loves to cook and eat (as do I--though she's a more dedicated cook.) I watch my most talented friends for recipe ideas. Rebecca throws a dinner party in ASKING FOR MURDER that includes spaghetti carbonara and red velvet cake. Yum, yum. My previous character, Cassie Burdette, was a junk food addict, so I enjoy trying Rebecca's concoctions. One friend asked if she was on a diet in this book--no, never!

Do you have any favorite advice columnists or one that inspired the character of Rebecca?

I am an advice column junkie. Probably my favorite of all time is "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" published monthly in the Ladies Home Journal. This column is deeper than most because each month it features a real therapist working with a troubled couple. And marriage therapy is hard--the magazine articles make it seem so easy. I also loved Ann Landers, and her daughter Margo Howard, who wrote Dear Prudence. Margo agreed to read and comment on DEADLY ADVICE before it was published. I was so nervous! But she loved it and was very gracious with a quote for the cover.

Cassie the pro golfer and Joe the sports psychologist from your first series have been mentioned in Rebecca's books and vice versa. Do you think Cassie and Rebecca could ever team up to solve a crime?

Rebecca made cameo appearances in the second and third golf mysteries, A BURIED LIE and PUTT TO DEATH. I added the cameo about Cassie to DEADLY ADVICE because I got the news about the series ending before I had the chance to wrap it up in a way that would satisfy her fans.

Unfortunately, both Rebecca and Cassie were interested in Joe the golf psychologist, which got them off on a bad foot. Cassie thought Rebecca was a prig, and Rebecca thought Cassie was reckless. It would be great fun to get them all together, because I'm sure the tension would still be there--but they'd have to work together somehow...

Thank you so much for hosting my return visit to the Berkeley Heights library! Please stop by and visit me at my website and blogs--if your book group is interested in discussion questions--or recipes--you'll find them there! Roberta

Friday, September 5, 2008

Upcoming Book Releases

USA Today has an interactive webpage that previews upcoming books month by month. Click here to see when your favorite authors' and other books will be released.
Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded will be out September 8.
Philip Roth, Garrison Keillor and Philippa Gregory all have titles to be released in September.
Celebrity biographies/autobiographies of Ted Turner, Roger Moore and John Lennon are coming out this fall.
There's something for everyone. BHPL can put patrons on the holds list for titles before the release date. Let us know.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Life of Privilege, Mostly by Gardner Botsford

The library book group will be discussing A Life of Privilege, Mostly by Gardner Botsford at its next meeting (Friday, September 5, at 10:30 a.m.) Gardner grew up wealthy and well-connected in New York in the 20s and 30s, the stepson of Raoul Fleischmann (as in Fleischmann's yeast); Harpo Marx was a friend of his mother's. Botsford served in France during World War II, and his memories of those years are one of the most amusing parts of the book. After the war, he was first a Talk of the Town reporter and then an editor at the New Yorker for 40 years.

To get a feel for A Life of Privilege, Mostly, you can read the New York Times review here, which begins with Botsford's story of having the Germans surrender the city of Carlsbad to him. I disagree with the scathing review that appeared in Entertainment Weekly, but see for yourself.

Compare this book with the other memoir we read this year, Shadow Man by Mary Gordon. How is it different? Which did you like better?

Did the light tone of A Life of Privilege, Mostly amuse you, or did it get on your nerves?

Which of Gardner's stories was the most memorable to you? Did you learn anything interesting from this book?

What did Gardner Botsford seem to leave out when he told the story of his life? Why do you think he chose to do that? (Hint: here's his obituary.)

Would you ever consider writing your memoirs, even if it were just for your family? Do you think you could rely on your memory for the truth?

Library Cards Open Doors

Basketball legend and author Kareem Abdul-Jabar is honorary chairman of the American Library Association's Library Card Sign-Up Month which takes place annually in September. Most people know Mr. Abdul-Jabar for his basketball prowess, but he is also an accomplished author of books on African American history.
The American Library Association website states,
"The master of the sky hook, the 7-foot-2-inch Abdul-Jabbar led UCLA to three consecutive NCAA titles and the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers to six NBA championships. But Abdul-Jabbar’s achievements go far beyond the court. He has written several books, including “On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance; “Giant Steps”; “Black Profiles in Courage”; “A Season on a Reservation”; and “Brothers in Arms.” Four of his books reached bestseller lists.

It's often said that library cards open doors to a whole world of knowledge and human accomplishment. Just yesterday, ALA President Jim Rettig released a statement about the importance of libraries to provide free access to a wide range of materials for all Americans. Click here to see his statement in which he "reminds Americans not to take the precious democratic freedom to read for granted. "
So exercise your right to read, sign up for a library card today.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Isleib Cometh

Roberta Isleib, who grew up in Berkeley Heights and later became a psychologist and mystery author, is stopping by the blog on Tuesday, September 9, to talk about her newest mystery, Asking for Murder. If you'd like to ask her a question, just leave a comment at the bottom of the interview. (All of BHPL's copies of Roberta's books are checked out right now, but you can get on the waiting list.)

If you want to knock the socks off your book group, you can ask Roberta to speak to your book group over the phone. For extra credit, make one of the recipes in her book. And there are discussion questions for all the books in the Rebecca Butterman series too.

Scholarship Opportunity for High School Students

Today's mail brought us a poster announcing a scholarship essay contest for high school students. Go to to submit an essay about a politician for the Profile in Courage Award Program.
Other resources in the library about college scholarships are available from books in the Reference Collection or circulating collection like the College Board Guide to Financial Aid (Ref 378.3 COL).
Students should also look at various websites and resources recommended by their Guidance Office.


U.S. Department of Education
Expected Family Contribution calculator (EFC)
Governor Livingston High School Guidance Office
New Jersey Department Of Education awards list