Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Parnassus on Wheels

"Oh, you're a librarian..," they say.
Followed inevitably by,
"You must read a lot."
"I'd like to read all day at my job..." wistfully.
"Ha ha, yes, so would I," is my not so clever rejoinder that is always ignored.
How did I get to this librarian place? It might have been in seventh grade when Mrs. Quinn, my English teacher, assigned a 1917 book by Christopher Morley, Parnassus on Wheels, which begins: 


I wonder if there isn't a lot of bunkum in higher education? I never
found that people who were learned in logarithms and other kinds of
poetry were any quicker in washing dishes or darning socks. I've
done a good deal of reading when I could, and I don't want to "admit
impediments" to the love of books, but I've also seen lots of good,
practical folk spoiled by too much fine print. Reading sonnets
always gives me hiccups, too.

I never expected to be an author! But I do think there are some
amusing things about the story of Andrew and myself and how books
broke up our placid life. When John Gutenberg, whose real name (so
the Professor says) was John Gooseflesh, borrowed that money to set
up his printing press he launched a lot of troubles on the world.
You can read the entire book on the Internet Archives  or The Gutenberg Project. You can even download it to a Kindle or other portable electronic device from there. The Project Gutenberg Project reviews it nicely here. So I'll just say it's the story of a woman who takes off in a mobile bookshop, an old-fashioned bookmobile/caravan to get a taste of freedom from the drudgery and responsibility of working on her farm with her rather pretentious brother, a budding author. It is written with tongue firmly in cheek in a rather old-fashioned style. I don't think I liked reading it at the age of twelve or so, but maybe it planted the seed of an idea in my mind. I still think it would be fun to drive a bookmobile around neighborhoods and a horse-driven one would be even better. If you like that idea, take a look at some of the modern incarnations of that dream.
My copy of the book looks like this
Biblioburro which you can follow on Facebook
FabLab in the Netherlands
Mobile libraries on Pinterest


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Three Good Books: Happy, Romantic, and Quirky

During May and June at the library our patrons begin to ask about this year’s popular beach and vacation books, so we try to keep ahead of that demand. The local schools send us their summer reading assignments in early June so those titles need to be ordered and organized for the library before school lets out. Sometimes it is difficult to find something good to read in this transitional reading season when we are preoccupied with preparing for summer reading. This year, however, I have hit the reading Triple Crown of three good books in a row. In no particular order, they are:

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-help That Actually Works by Dan Harris.  While reading this book I could imagine Dan Harris sitting over a cup of coffee and talking to me about his journey to manageable enlightenment.  He starts with the same doubts as many of us and a certain wariness of the spiritual overtones frequently associated with meditation.  Conversations with Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra are just stops along his road.  After finishing this book I started recommending it to various family members – so much more polite than suggesting psychological counseling.  I recommend this book to everyone who thinks being 10% calmer would be a good, attainable goal.  Plus, I like this book so much that I bought it – something I rarely do.

The second book on my list is, strictly speaking, a trilogy by Jill Shalvis.  Shalvis is well known for contemporary romance and the Animal Magnetism series is wonderful fun. Each book features a really attractive (sensitive, but troubled) man, a really lovely (strong with baggage from her past) woman, a collection of rescue kittens and puppies, and mountains found far, far away from New Jersey.  In addition to the rescue animals, a duck, lamb and parrot frequently appear.

My third title, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, is about a bookstore owner on Alice Island.  The main character, A.J. Fikry, is just eccentric and quirky enough that he reminded me of the Richard Brautigan book about the librarian who only accepted books into his library but never allowed anything to leave.  The two books have nothing in common except a certain degree of likeable quirkiness.  Back to Alice Island, however, each chapter starts with Fikry’s take on a classic short story.  I am not a fan of short stories, but I am tempted to try again with his suggestions.  The book is short and sweet, the characters are likeable, and the ending is equal parts sad and hopeful.
Springtime by Claude Monet

Related links:
Amazon's 2014 Best Summer Reads Lists - Use the library's Amazon Smile account when ordering through Amazon.

- S.Bakos

Monday, June 9, 2014

What if Book Reviews Were Written Like Wine Reviews?

Have you ever wondered why wines are described with terms that are more puzzling than helpful, more poetic than realistic? A flyer for a local wine store sat on the table in the library staff room the other day, so of course, because librarians have to have something to read at all times and it was there, we read it. Aloud. The descriptions of wines are inventive, colorful, creative, even whacky. For example:

"Brooding layers of black cherry, pulverized rock, spiced cedar and hints of anise roar with authority, while massive tannins and roaring acidity deliver a crushing blow of flavor that'll have you quivering with delight."
"Deep intense aromatics of blueberries, black fruits, saddle leather and oak spice carry into a long, chewy finish with plump fruit tannins."
"Rich, plush and juicy on the attack, filled with almost chewy, crushed red fruit bramble, the finish remains fresh and vibrant."
Other descriptive phrases included: "a glycerol, creamy mouthfeel," "aromas of ...buttered citrus," "crushed rocks," "smoked earth aromas," "tobacco, underbrush and worn-in leather," "with notes of brioche," and the adjective "purpley."

If we reviewed books using a similar style, it might look something like this:
"This mystery starts with a flinty introduction to the reader's palate, bursts with fruity exuberance in the middle chapters, bringing a worn-leather tone and and rocky robustness, ending with a long finish to a satisfying conclusion."
"The characters in this thriller have a saddle-leather resilience in their blend of cocoa and berry attitudes that take the theme and plot to a roaring finale."
"Hints of live oaks and the smell of the bayou take the reader on a quivering trip through tannin-filled swamps and a lingering aftertaste of southern nostalgia."
"This fresh-faced first novel attacks the reader with purpley prose and continues on the nose with a soupcon of chewing the scenery while quivering with a roaring, fruity first-person narrative with a finish that surprises with its acidity and buttered rocky denouement."
Bacchus by Caravaggio (1595)